(2006) Viticultural Center

client : BMMI
typology : Mixed-Use Retail & Commercial
services : Architecture
where : Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain

With a Client design brief calling for a “lifestyle destination surrounding its core business”, the 5,500 sqm center contains a fine wine accessories corner, a specialized bookshop, wine tasting bar, promotions, spirits, cigar and parlour rooms, cafeteria, kitchens, restaurant, cellars, storage rooms as well as the Client’s administrative offices. All organized around the project’s two key features: a two story barrel that anchors the building’s southern corner facing the Gulf Hotel and its three concealed basement corporate cellars.

To further enhance the visitor’s interaction as well as buffer the urban context, the neutral landscaping design sourced its inspiration from a typical winery: water, gravel, trees, barrels and a canopy entrance that mimics entertwining vines as if it were alive. The location of the corporate cellars in the basement responded to the Client’s concern for discretion and was inspired by Berry Brother’s & Rudd, a respected London wine merchant whose cellars are a testimony to centuries of wine enthusiasts.

Just as in London, the center’s three cellars will be used for corporate as well as private functions and are equipped with temporary storage rooms next to the parking. As the Client’s annual wine tasting events following en primeur releases draw considerable attention, both cellars and storage facilities offer discreet and practical ways of learning about, tasting and purchasing the wine.

Using steel wire mesh gabions inconsistently filled with locally available scraps of medium to dark grey marble, the 400mm thick wall conceals a secondary continuous horizontal glass wall. The porous stone wall, as a metaphoric screen permits light in and out throughout the day and night.

Both envelopes endow the project with a sense of discretion that transitions more clearly with the corner glass volume. Here, there is no doubt as to what the project’s function is, or could be. The interior barrel’s near monumental presence is rendered more temporal through the use of colourful wine labels that are mounted regularly on vertical strips of PVC panels immediately behind the glass envelope and serve as advertising for the center.