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Marqués de Riscal Hotel
Elciego (Alava), Spain
Gehry Partners, LLP

Frank Gehry animates a 19th-century vineyard with dynamic forms and great unfurling ribbons of pink-and-gold-hued titanium.

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Photo © Duccio Malagamba

By David Cohn

Before Frank Gehry’s titanium-coifed boutique hotel arrived in the village of Elciego, at the heart of Spain’s wine-growing La Rioja region, the town already had a landmark: the majestic 16th-century church, presiding over a picturesque valley. But while the church’s paired towers shine as local highlights, Gehry’s building is more of an international beacon, commissioned by the local Marqués de Riscal Winery to promote the growing international interest in Spanish wine.

Set beside a stream at the edge of town, Marqués de Riscal is one of the region’s oldest and largest wineries, with buildings dating to 1853. According to Edwin Chan, Gehry’s design partner on the project, the client was initially interested in a “chateau for the 21st century, a kind of bed-and-breakfast for VIPs,” as part of an overall modernization of its facilities. The project eventually grew to 27,000 square feet to include 43 guest rooms (14 junior suites in the main building and 29 rooms or suites in an annex, all managed by an international luxury chain), a wine-therapy spa, and a restaurant run by a local Michelin-starred chef.

The hotel’s site within the winery’s compound was challenging. Set behind the historic stone factories and backed by a steep hill, the new building does not nestle into the vineyards; instead, it stands over a paved plaza that covers a new bottle cave (accessible by direct elevators from the hotel). Gehry’s structure rises on three stone piers to capture views and assert its sculptural presence.

Views of the town and valley successively unfold as you ascend from the glazed lobby, with its wine bar and terrace, to the 14 junior suites on the next floor, the restaurant with its ample terraces above it, and the guest lounge with more terraces at the top. Seemingly casual stacks of rectangular volumes, clad in pale sandstone like the masonry of the church and village, house the interior spaces. Floor-to-ceiling wood-framed windows, many jutting from the corners of the volumes, peek out amid flowing rolls of mirror-finish stainless steel and pale gold-and-pink-colored titanium (hues inspired, the architects say, by the gold-mesh wrapper, silver cap, and purple contents of the company’s bottles, and produced by passing titanium through an electric current in an acid bath). Exposed steel structures support these metal sheets, forming a capricious shading layer—a cascading succession of canopies—over the stone.

Want the full story? Read the entire article in our December 2006 issue.
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Formal name of project:
Marqués de Riscal Hotel

Elciego (Alava), Spain

Gross square footage:
7,300 square meters (including annex)

Main building only = 2,990 square meters

Marqués de Riscal Winery

Gehry Partners, LLP
12541 Beatrice St.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone:  310-482-3000
Fax:  310-482-3006


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