"Capturing the Essence of Williams Selyem"To capture the essence of Williams Selyem in architectural form, the new building had to, on the one hand, be designed around the winery's natural and minimalist philosophy of wine making - Williams Selyem wines embody everything this slice of wine country stands for: a kind of ground zero for idealistic organic farmers & wine makers; on the other, the new project would be sitting at the inflection point of Sonoma's modernization process, further heightening the importance of the intervention - the county was clearly stepping into the spot light, quickly becoming the new face of California wine country; and the new winery, the first from the ground-up to be completed in nearly a decade, would be faced with the challenge of carefully formulating how to gracefully transition an idealistic Sonoma into the next century while preserving all that's good about its culture and history - carefully setting the tone for all local winery developments in the future. Site & Program:In order to maximize the site's harvestable area and potential views over the Russian River Valley, the new winery structure had to first conquer the site's topography & physical constraints - the Litton Estate site, arguably one of the most beautiful sites in the area, is characterized for its dramatically steeped rolling hills. Starting at the bottom, the site quickly rises more than 150 feet in elevation before reaching the top where the narrow building site lies - a sharply steeped hill-portion tightly sandwiched between a tree-lined cliff and twenty-five foot tall rock outcroppings. In the spirit of crafting a suitable design approach, it was decided that the large structure had to have its sizeable program fragmented and organized into three (3) distinct components: administration, production and tasting pavilion; to both break down the scale of the overall intervention and to allow the building to best fit, and defer to, the site's natural features which included 200 year-old California Oak trees and giant lichen covered rock outcroppings - the buildings and landscape would then be designed to weave in and out of each other, with the production building half buried into the hillside and a green roof terrace above that would literally bring the surrounding fields into the building. This approach was key as it helped the building's three main components better engage their surroundings, making site landscape preservation, use and, appreciation a critical part of the experience. The administration and tasting pavilion, both book-ends to the production building, would then become the beginning and the end to a sequence intended to help visitors learn and discover all about the history, manufacturing and, complexities of Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs. Project Sequence: The three distinct populations that currently use the facility - production employees, administrative staff and visitors are all separated and joined by the building's sectional organization. Visitors enter the administration building at the east lower level and proceed sequentially through hospitality areas, the production floor and then up to the roof terrace and ultimately the wine tasting pavilion - this museum/gallery sequence was designed to allow all visitors to learn about the history of Williams Selyem before embarking on a tour that will expose them to the technical aspects as well as the artistry of the wine making process - all before tasting the final product atop the Tasting Pavilion Terrace while enjoying 180 degree views of beautiful Russian River Valley. The employees enter via the west end of the roof terrace and directly into the second level of the administration building; the green roof terrace being the primary common ground for all of the building's users. Architecture / Language:The Administration Building, the project's most public building, uses iconic elements of winemaking as a generator of form and meaning; it was conceived as a deconstructed glass and steel barn - a kind of glassy volume onto which other programmatic elements are glued. This structure, which is capped by a cantilevering wood & metal barrel vaulted roof structure (a metaphorical deconstructed wine barrel), is book-ended on two of its sides by local redwood and masonry-clad programmatic volumes, allowing the glassy object to "slide" and remain open on its front and rear entry points. This structure's front facade is entirely composed of a leaning curtain wall and a twenty-foot high wine "barrel wall" - both, creating a dramatic and on-brand gateway to the Williams Selyem winery. The building's hospitality lobby, which sits beyond the building's entry, is internally defined by an equally expansive "bottle wall", while offering picture-framed views of the underside of the barrel vault structure through an opening on the second floor slab. The use of reclaimed redwood barrel staves on suspended slat ceilings, sculptural doors and entry vestibule, maintains a constant sensorial experience that further reinforces the thematically driven design. The Production Building, half-buried into the hillside to reduce any negative scale-related impact to the site, was originally devised to become a part of its surroundings - clad with rough-board patterned cast-in-place concrete walls, it easily manages to blend with the surrounding rock outcroppings where visible, while expanding the usable landscaped area of the project via its roof terrace & gardens; the latter, functioning as a fore-court to all administrative personnel working in the building. The Tasting Pavilion (Phase II), the last piece on the winery's gallery sequence, was conceptualized as a vertical deconstructed wine barrel. Conceived as a glassy volume, this chapel-like structure displays exposed steel structure and large exterior wooden fins ("staves") angled to protect it from solar glare and heat gain - strategically placed on a large base to enhance the visitor-vineyard experience, it provides the best light while offering dramatic views of the Russian River Valley. Sustainability & Landscape:The owner-design team commitment to preserving and enhancing the natural features of the site led to the complimentary idea of incorporating many other sustainable features into the design. The production building's "half buried" configuration, green roof and 13" thick insulated concrete panels cast on-site all contribute to a highly energy efficient structure. The administration building incorporates extensive clerestory windows (resulting in a reduced demand for electric lighting), doors made with old reused wine barrel staves, local fieldstone, highly efficient low-e glazing, exterior shading of windows, extensive use of low-emitting materials / paint as well as a metal roof that mitigates the heating effect of the building on the site's habitat. Photovoltaic arrays on the production building mechanical penthouse roof and at the employee parking lot generate electricity and hot water on-site. The landscaping, conceptualized by owner John Dyson, extends the stunning beauty of the surrounding landscape into the project through the use of local plant material and adds to the sustainable effort in their minimal irrigation needs.