Talk about luxury hotels and the mind instantly conjures an image of a fancy skyscraper with its extravagant glass facade standing tall amidst the humble setting. Marriott’s Hotel Marqués de Riscal with its organic form questions this very stereotype while intriguing the observer.
Nestled in the lap of nature in La Rioja, Spain’s primary wine-producing area, Hotel Marqués de Riscal by Frank Gehry hangs as a mass of metallic ribbons suspended into the infinite space. The project was commissioned in 2002 as part of Marqués de Riscal winery’s vision of the City of Wine to combine the production space with a leisure space. This was based on the winery’s philosophy of fusing the modern and traditional, to raise awareness of the wine and its history while also including spaces for a vinotherapy, a museum of wine and a research and training wing amongst others.
Rightly so, the seamlessly curved titanium roof of the hotel with its stellar colours stands in stark contrast to the historic subterranean wine cellars designed by architect Ricardo Bellsola in 1858. The physical culmination of the confluence of two worlds – wine and gastronom, the hotel was opened to the public in 2006.
Gehry’s idea of architecture was very different from the mind-numbing white blocks in the modernist era. From the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Gehry’s buildings took sculptural forms.
Hotel Marqués de Riscal, another functional sculpture, with its sensual curves and asymmetric walls highlights the architect’s attempt at developing a new architectural language. The rectilinear composition of prisms and titanium cladding gives the impression of movement across the entire building.
As Gehry himself puts it, “I’m always trying to express movement, I was fascinated with the fold so basic to our first feelings of love and warmth.”
The hotel is part of the genesis of a new style in architecture that challenged the conventional structural principles. All the calculations had to be reworked in terms of stability, organisation, regularity and repetition to achieve what is now called irregular architecture. Different programs were used for the calculations like RISA for metal and ANSYS for concrete.
Material and Structure
Spread across an area of 2000m², the hotel is divided into two zones connected by a raised covered walkway. The main building comprises the reception, restaurants, meeting and fourteen guest bedrooms. The remaining forty-three luxury bedrooms with breathtaking views of La Rioja vineyards on one side and the mountains of the Sierra de Cantabria in Basque Country on the other are located in the annexe.
Rising above the vineyards, the mass of intertwined metal canopy resembles the branches of the grapevines. The foundation, just like the roots, goes 8m under the ground, starting at the basement housing the new winery facility.
The entire structure is wrapped in titanium canopies supported on the stone of the building and the super columns from the ground. The canopies dipped in rosé, silver and gold draw inspiration from the rich tones of the vineyard and reflect the very essence of the setting. They are also symbolic of the famous Vinos de Marqués de Riscal, the rosé depicts the hues of the red wine, gold alludes to the mesh of the bottle and the mirror-finished stainless steel is representative of the capsule on the neck of the bottle.
Due to the irregular shape of the titanium, it was subjected to various tests including one at a wind tunnel in Canada followed by a Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation program. This asymmetric arrangement of the canopies acts as a sun breaker to provide shade from the harsh sun in La Rioja.
With three floors and a mezzanine floor, the building is a rectilinear composition of prisms supported on 3 columns, each 1.65m high crossing the 1.5m thick slab at the entry-level. The remaining floor slabs are supported by metal beams concealed behind the walls while the four prisms support the cantilevers of the end elevations. The reducing floor area towards the upper stories imparts a pyramidal look to the entire structure.
The stone and wood facades are rooted in the traditional sandstone wine cellars with each stone held by four-point anchors. The stone also provides thermal insulation and waterproofing. The irregular roof style covering over 1000m² of glass ensures that no two windows are the same in terms of their shape ranging from triangular to trapezoidal and the views of the vineyards and far off mountains they offer.
Ergo, each fold of canopy housing an opening endorses a unique play of light and shadow. The window frame makes use of galvanised steel and aluminium frames, all lined with wooden planks.
Several companies were involved in the construction process- Ferrovial of Madrid constructed the shell, Umaran S. Coop and Barakaldo were responsible for the roof and facade while PERI Spain provided formwork and scaffolding, from the shoring systems to working platforms.
The load from the slabs is transferred through the 3 super columns with different cross-sections whose concreting was done in one pour for the complete height using the PERI TRIO framework. Polygonally arranged TRIO elements were adopted for the curved walls. Cross-wire positioned steel profiles were employed under PERI UP falsework assembly to ensure even distribution of load owing to the caves and cavities underground. For additional safety, the accessible cave areas were braced.
The 55 × 20m large twisting surface was constructed as a single unit without any concrete joints. Working platforms were placed spatially after reinforced concrete work along the longitudinal sides of the building was completed. Steel girders were assembled bottom-up while the titanium plates were installed top-down.
The frame for the roof structure was made up of two main beams – highly deformed I sections about the minor axis supporting T- sections 90% of which were straight. The T- sections are supported along the main axis at various angles producing faces curved in two directions eliminating the need for bending beams.
The sophisticated interiors for the project were also helmed by Gehry himself. The variety of materials and textures used in the furniture designed by acclaimed architects like Alvar Alto all follow the colour scheme inspired by the settings and implemented in the facade of the hotel – hues and tones of the renowned red wine. The leather and raw maple wood of the suites and the dark marble of the bathrooms included furniture designed by Gehry like the cloud lamps.
Hotel Marqués de Riscal by Mariot dominates the countryside landscape of Spain but blends in enough to respect the existing built environment. A domino subjected to the Bilbao effect, the brainchild of Frank Gehry, Hotel Marqués de Riscal is another building etched in golden letters in the history of architecture. The splendour oozing out from every crevice on the facade complemented with a side of avant-garde technology and topped with an aesthetically appealing form makes the hotel an architectural prowess.