The Cantina “L’’Astemia pentita” [The Repentant Teetotaler Winery] is an architectural project that overflows with thought-provoking aspects, pursuing multiple goals of passing tongue-in-cheek yet serious comment on the world of wine-making and product marketing (in this case, a top-tier Barolo wine), while aspiring to create a building imbued with distinguishing, symbolic values. It is a complex approach in itself: a way of thinking that embraces both thesis and anthesis, tangible assertion and symbolic negation.
Rising on hilly ground among serried rows of vines, the building has a close rapport with the stunning landscape of vineyards, a regular and cadenced form of agriculture from winemaking tradition, a pretty nearby village crowning the march of the closely-planted hillsides. The idea of building such an expression of communicative power in this location, creating a construction that stands out starkly from everything around it, is clear to all and sundry. The building is a veritable constellation of symbols, in the broadest sense of the term.
The project says it all: this building is a medium for conveying communicative and foundational values, extending ethical sensibilities and manifesting itself through elements that, while explicit, also convey a critical subtext. The tangible nature of the building is a quest for contradictions in procedure and habit, meaning and juxtaposition.
The project boldly wears its discursive intent on its sleeve: the building is an emanation of analytical complexity, temporarily flowing into a process of synthesis as a statement of contrast and dichotomy. A winery: the terroir and vine-growing play symbols of themselves, signifiers of the abundant certainty that wine is made here. Wine-making requires a winery. But what kind of winery is necessary and desirable? Celebrative, mimetic, seductive, nestling in the landscape - introjecting forms and materials, forms and colors into the project - as an expression of architecture visible from afar, yet as a vehicle of which particular characteristics?
In this particular case, the Winery is symbolically committed to asserting the crucial nodes of winemaking by appropriating symbols, changing what they refer to and adapting them into a form of internal contradiction, in what we may define as an analytical foundational process. In effect, the transposition of signifiers and mediation lies at the very core of this design process: the Winery hovers over the flat ground, rendering itself visible from afar without resorting to a magniloquent stylistic approach or indeed celebrating anything at all. It is, in sum, an “ironic” winery. The building is in actual fact an expression of irony from the name onwards: it proceeds by rewarding the verbal contradictions in the winery’s name, which dispenses with references either to the local area or the type of wine that is made there, the noble Barolo... In short, it is an impersonation-led narrative approach that draws us into a theatrical space of narrative and subtext: the winery itself is a repentant “teetotaler”, plunging headlong into the delights of Bacchus’ beverage on behalf of those who appreciate wine and wine connoisseurs, whether they be aficionados or penitents.
So, irony to the fore... Everything described moves inexorably in this direction. The architectural layout also offers us plenty of food and drink for thought. The building’s two above-ground floors offer space for reception, exhibition, tasting and offices. The two levels below ground level are for ageing the wine and for sales. The design concept itself simulates wine crates for transporting the precious end-product bottles.
The wine crate - the very last stage of production, the medium into which bottles are slotted for transport - is manifested as a building: the outside simulates the wooden slats that make up the crate sides, the writing redolent of the fragile glasses soon to be used, sporting the title, “Cantina astemia pentita”.
The final stage of the winemaking process, marketing and selling the wine, has become a metaphor for the process as a whole. Irony and contradiction: a noble product in a standard-issue container. And yet all the while, despite the juxtapositions and contrasts, the architectural rendition of these crates, one for each floor is off-kilter, its large overhangs visible from nearby or afar, offering a strong frame of reference and standing as a veritable landmark in its hilly surroundings.
Location: Barolo (CN)
Client: Cantina Astemia Pentita
Gross Floor Area: 2,400 m2
Cost of Construction: 6,000,000 Euros
Architects: Gianni Arnaudo
Rendering: Ermal Brahimaj
Contractor: GB Costruzioni
Structural: Ing. Roberto Mellano (Studio SI.ME.TE)
Exterior Cladding: Woodn
Wall and Floor Coverings: Graniti Fiandre
Photography: © Dario Fusaro
Gianni Arnaudo began his career at Studio 65, where he was one of the original driving forces. His first pieces of radical architecture date back to that period when, working with Gufram, he presented Multiples at EuroDomus 1972, which quickly won international acclaim after exhibitions such as: “Italy - New Domestic Landscape” at MOMA in New York. In 1975, Arnaudo set up his own professional practice, which has brought him success and international acclaim. Irony, desecration and “critical design” are Arnaudo’s hallmarks: his works of architecture and design have ensured an ongoing place for him as an icon of art and Pop design.
His painting “Déjeuner sur l’arbre”, a work that opens up a new perspective by introducing an object from real life - the Déjeuner sur l’Arbre table (2007) - into Manet’s well-known painting, ironically renews the Impressionist Master’s desecratory intent as a synthesis of all Pop Art.
A number of top museums, including the Centre Pompidou, the Vitra Design Museum of Basle, and GAM in Turin, have acquired Arnaud’s works for their permanent collections.
His most recent exhibition at the Vitra featured not just his projects but a presentation of the Aliko chair, which received coverage in the Wall Street Journal