France commune

Foster + Partners nests the Domaine du Dôme in the French vineyards

The medieval town of St Emilion forms the backdrop for a low cellar that the British architecture studio Foster + Partners has completed for the French wine producer Le Dôme.

Hidden away in the hills of Bordeaux, France, Le Dôme winery was designed to complement its rural wine-growing environment.

Foster + Partners has created a wine estate near the town of St Emilion

Home + Partners was commissioned for the project by Dome owner Jonathan Maltus, who requested a “state of the art” wine production facility.

Maltus’ other requirement was for the winery to celebrate its site and its proximity to the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to Roman times.

Domed cellar in French vineyards
The building is marked by a domed roof

“When Jonathan Maltus first approached us, he expressed a desire to create a distinctive new winery, in the unique context of St Emilion,” said studio founder Norman Foster.

“He wanted the building to be a celebration of the magnificent site, focusing on the view of the vineyard and making the landscape the main protagonist of the design,” he explained.

Building with terracotta tiles
The cellar is designed to complement its environment

“The idea was to blend the building with its surroundings while creating a welcoming space for visitors and wine lovers,” added Foster.

Le Dôme cellar sits at the end of a tree-lined avenue and is marked by a domed roof covered with recycled terracotta tiles.

Ramp in front of Le Dôme
The upper floor of the building is covered with glazing

Inside, it comprises two floors, one of which is partially buried in the landscape to minimize the overall visual impact of the structure.

The lower level of the cellar is poured in concrete and clad in wood, while the upper level is lined with panoramic glazing which maximizes the views inside and outside the building.

Foster + Partners designed a circular plan for the building, which incorporates two ramps – one positioned outside and one inside.

Ramps guide visitors through the building, allowing them to observe the different stages of the winemaking process, before reaching the next level for a wine tasting experience.

Atrium of the Dome
An atrium overlooks the winemaking facilities

Described by the studio as the “social heart of the building,” the upper level features tables, a bar and entertainment areas. Its glass windows also provide visitors with stunning views of the vineyards and the city beyond.

In the center of the space is a circular atrium that allows people to look down on the wine production and storage spaces on the lower level.

Bar inside the Dome
The upper floor is used for wine tasting

The upper floor has a series of sleek office modules for employees, which are surrounded by wooden screens for acoustic and visual privacy.

These screens are complemented by the conch-shaped underside of the domed roof which is also made from wood.

Inside the Le Dôme cellar
The lower level is concrete

The 40-meter-wide roof structure was developed in-house by the architectural and industrial design teams of Foster + Partners.

It uses a reciprocal frame – a type of free-standing structure made up of inclined beams – which ensures that the space is column-free.

Reciprocal frame roof structure
The roof incorporates a six-meter wide oculus

The design of the roof’s twirling structure also gives rise to a six-meter-wide oculus at its center, which floods the upper level with daylight.

The Dome was one of twelve buildings featured by Dezeen in his roundup of new buildings to watch for in 2021. Other recently completed projects on the list include a coastal library in China by MAD and SANAA’s rebirth of the great La Samaritaine store in France.

Cellar interiors
Winemaking facilities are held on the lower level

Founded in 1967 by Norman Foster, Foster and Partners is an international architecture studio headquartered in London. The studio had previously designed a glass-walled cellar in the historic Chateau Margaux wine estate outside Bordeaux and a cellar clad in weathered steel shingles in Spain.

In the UK, he is currently designing The Kentish Wine Vault, which will feature a green roof that extends across the landscape to help disguise it.

The photograph is by Nigel Young.

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