A Crystal in the River Oasis: Winery in Yinchuan
Client: COFCO Ltd.
Architect: a+a Anderloni Associates
The north of the central Chinese province of Yingxia is like an oasis surrounded by semi-arid landscapes. Practically speaking, in this area only the plain at the headwaters of the Yellow River is inhabited and cultivated. To the west, the region borders on the barren ridge of the Helan Mountains. Just behind the mountains, the Gobi Desert stretches out.
Fabio Anderloni, founder of the a+a Anderloni Associates architecture studio, describes this area as a “beautiful moonscape.” It is also home to some of China’s best wines. Because many Chinese look to Europe as a cultural role model, the natives often call their wines the Chinese Bordeaux.
However, when it comes to greatness, the Chinese prefer to look to their own past. The best-known wine brand is called Great Wall, and its vintner was responsible for the construction of the Great Wall Yunmo Winery by a+a Anderloni Associates. The Beijing-based, Chinese-Italian architecture studio, which has been in operation since 2006, designed the 14,500-m² new building as a crystalline foreign body set among the vineyards. Its orange-yellow, zigzagging plaster façade is covered with countless square, hollow steel profiles whose pattern takes up the linear arrangement of the surrounding grapevines. Large, glazed windows allow an unobstructed view from the interior over the plain.
The panorama is particularly imposing from the rooftop terrace and the restaurant on the upper floor, where the mirrored concrete supports multiply the image of the landscape. The rest of the upper storey is predominantly set aside for office spaces. The ground floor extends from south to north in five different areas. The two ends accommodate offices, while the middle is home to the foyer, an exhibition hall and a shop with a tasting room. The basement shelters the Holy of Holies of any vineyard: the cellar.
Inside, the sloping areas and folds of the east façade are hardly perceptible, for a second, interior façade has been erected here; the space between the two façades acts as a thermal buffer. The foyer and shop are circular islands in the long building. A two-storey wooden sculpture in the entryway calls wine barrels to mind. Underneath, a round glass cutout in the floor allows daylight into the basement, where the wine barrels are grouped in elevated rows around a water basin “like in a Roman circus,” as Fabio Anderloni remarks. The large neighbouring cellar room under the exhibition hall is no less impressive. Concrete floors, brown ceilings and joists, red curtains and chandelier-like hanging lamps give this area an atmosphere that is part crypt, part factory hall.