Dante once wrote ‘Wine spreads poetry in the heart’, bringing this statement to life is one of the Spanish/Swiss architects, Santiago Calatrava, with his marvelous and ingenious design and engineering skills. His designed winery- Bodegas Ysios, is considered one of the most exquisite, magnificent, and whimsical wineries in Spain. Set against the palette of the majestic Sierra de Cantabria mountain range, Ysios through its iconic building and world-class winemaking aim to beckon attention to La Rioja Alavesa, giving a holistic experience to its visitor including making, storing, and selling wine.
Bodegas, meaning a wine shop/cellar, derives its name from Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris, who had magical powers overseeing the conversion of grapes into wine. As written earlier Ysios is located on the foothills of the mountain range Cantabria. Cantabria creates a microclimate in the region conducive to grape farming and wine production. It also protects the region from the cold northwestern winds. Around the foothills, the slope gentles and is interwoven with the terraces of the Ebro River. The Bodegas Ysios hence is perfectly set against the mountains on the fertile land of the river, soaking the soft Spanish sun. The site has a slope of 10m from north to south which was used as a crucial element in the design (explained later).
One of the few words that would perfectly describe the design of the winery would be the word “harmonious’’ for from the roof to the walls and the water body everything perfectly integrates as one whole. Though harmonious, Santiago Calatrava has created a movement in the structure through his design of the inner and outer spaces where the building although static looks dynamic. The picturesque structure at all points of time looks like a fleeting frame frozen in time.
The Bodegas Ysios is an elongated pavilion, 196mx26m, with an area of 8,000m2. The plan of the structure is linear in order to fit the linear winemaking process. The plan resembles the curve of a line of barrels kept in a winery. The entry to the structure is through a double swing door adorned with the name of the winery after which there is a tasting room, shop and office. A side entrance has been provided for grapes to enter and be stored. A double-story processing unit is with a viewing area and a multipurpose hall is also located within the winery.
The visitor section is where a giant balcony overlooks both the vineyard and the winery in the center of the structure. The raised balcony with its jutting vertical wood panels in the center creates a sort of altar for the winery which was originally conceived as a temple celebrating the ancient beverage. Natural light pours into the floor to ceiling windows throughout the public space. At both ends of the building, on the sidewalls, two entrances goods are located, accentuating the linearity of the building.
Structurally the winery is made of two load-bearing walls of concrete supporting the roof. Due to the slope of the site and these load-bearing walls, the iconic shape of the roof is enhanced. These load-bearing walls are wave-like and concave and convex along the longitudinal axis. They were predesigned and cast to structurally accommodate the wooden battens for the roof. The roof is made of wooden beams laminated with aluminium, designed as an extension of the plan. The exterior walls are wood cladded with a cedar plank, again to resemble the wine ageing barrels. The strong contrast between the color palettes of the cedar-clad walls and the aluminium laminated wooden ceiling creates a dynamic effect in the peaceful vineyard surrounding. At the base, there is a water body, lined with white ceramic tiles. The water reflected on the ceiling of the roof along with the glowing aluminium due to the Spanish sun gives a luminous feel to the structure.
Although a brilliant structure with poetic aesthetics, the design was recently criticized due to the problem of leaky ceilings. The firm faced an expensive lawsuit from the owners as even after continuous repairs and maintenance of the winery the leaky ceiling leads to an increase in the moisture inside. This interfered with the optimum temperature and moisture maintained inside a winery, disrupting the winery production. Replacing the iconic roof is currently being disputed upon.