Engaging The Ground

The rhythm and geometries of the agricultural landscape, along with the craft, technology and patterns of wine production, together shape the architecture and landscape of the Novelty Hill • Januik Winery. Seattle-based Mithun, an interdisciplinary firm of architects, designers, and planners, in collaboration with Katherine Anderson, established a linear logic – drawing on both the linear rows of grapes in a vineyard and the rows of tanks in a winery – that guides everything from the shape of the parking lot to the footprint of the building, and sets up a rhythm of parallel shifting walls. These shifting walls, which define the building and move into the landscape, are primarily concrete, stripped down to their function of holding up the building and holding up the ground in the garden. In contrast to these concrete walls, perpendicular infill walls are composed of slatted wood and colored resin, lending warmth and lightness to the in-between spaces.

The entrance to the winery opens onto a central corridor that runs from the front to the back of the building, terminating in a deck level with the canopy of trees beyond. From the corridor, one can look out over the two-story production floor and into the barrel rooms. Steel fermentation tanks and stacks of barrels dominate the view. On the other side of the corridor, a sequence of rooms – the tasting room, Terrace Room, kitchen and the Tree House – are lined up one after the other; hiding beneath the Terrace Room is the Cellar Room.

From the Tasting and Terrace Rooms, concrete floors, concrete walls and transparent roof canopies extend outside, past glass walls, and into the garden. Here, a sequence of terraces unfolds, beginning with the bocce court and Shade Terrace – so named because of the shade created by the allée of ash trees. Steps lead down to the Sun and Wetland Terraces, and ultimately onto a platform overlooking the larger wetland landscape.

Each terrace has a distinct material quality. The pale gray-pink gravel on the Shade Terrace relates to the dry, dusty ground in Eastern Washington, where the grapes used for making Novelty Hill and Januik wines are grown. Concrete pavers separated by parallel lines of low thyme define the ground of the Sun Terrace, while an outdoor fireplace and a long trough of water respectively warm and cool this space. Finally, the dark gray gravel on the Wetland Terrace evokes the gray days so familiar in Western Washington.

Out in the garden, the geometries of the planted areas and the restrained palette of plant material also draw on the patterns of the agricultural landscape. The allée recalls the straight, parallel rows of trellised vines on a vineyard, as do the long strips of thyme. The blocks of red-twig dogwood on the Wetland Terrace and under the existing big leaf maple are akin to the blocks of a single crop in the agricultural landscape. In spring, the red-twig dogwood is bright green, while in winter, it is deep red – much like the new green of the grapevine in spring and the red of the grapes in autumn.

The design of the winery is inspired by the close relationship between winemaking and the ground where the grapes grow. The soil impacts the taste of the wine. In a sense the soil is embedded in every glass. Similarly, the architecture and gardens of the Novelty Hill • Januik Winery engage the ground of the site, rather than hovering above it. Furthermore, the design aims to entangle the building and garden, blurring the edge between architecture and landscape, such as when the concrete walls of the building move out into garden, holding up the ground and defining rooms outside. In this place, architecture and nature enhance and elevate each other. This is perhaps best captured when the shadows of the existing big leaf maple, which marks the entrance to the site, are cast against the building’s concrete walls. Here, the formal and spare qualities of the concrete walls are softened and given a new dimension through the projection of natural forms against their surface. In this moment, the walls amount to more because of the shadow of the tree, and the tree’s presence expands because it has a smooth surface to touch.