Advanced Design Studio: Bellew/Bow/Spence

Bellew/Bow/Spence: Rioja

A Sustainable Bodega (Winery) and Hotel Complex


Design and Visualization





This Studio brings together Bass visiting Fellow John Spence, entrepreneur and Chairman of Karma Resorts worldwide with Architect Andy Bow, Senior Partner at Foster and Partners in London, Environmental Engineer Patrick Bellew, Principal of design consultancy Atelier Ten and Timothy Newton of the YSOA who have together delivered two previous Saarinen Advanced Studios with a particular emphasis on sustainability and sustainable design.

The task for this studio will be to work with this multi-faceted team of Client and Designers to design a world class Bodega in Rioja, Spain, integrating the functions of a biodynamic Winery with a hotel, restaurant, and other tourism and guest attractions and activities.

The Studio will be a challenging one as we will be seeking to reconcile the three main themes of outstanding design appropriate to region and function, commercial critique and verification of design proposals and the development of proposals to the highest international standards of sustainable design.

Detail of studio

The students will be tasked with the design of a medium sized Bodega that will produce wines to the Biodynamic standard in the Rioja region of northern Spain, capable of producing up to 500,000 bottles of red and white wine per annum. Attached to the bodega (or related to it) will be a 4/5 star hotel comprising 30-40 rooms, together with a restaurant of approx. 100 covers, a bar, spa, business and medium sized conference facilities and potentially some sports activities.

Independent from the hotel the bodega will have visitor facilities in the form of a presentation space, tasting room and retail outlet to facilitate wine tours around the property so that visitors get a clear understanding of the processes involved, the seasonal nature of the activities and the time needed to make great wine. Additionally the Bodega could include an attraction designed to encourage visitation and tourism, and be in keeping with the concept of wine, or the region. (e.g. a museum, an amphitheater for concerts, local produce production facilities such as cheese or chocolate etc)

As part of the project the students will also be asked to develop branding and marketing materials for their Bodega.

Focus areas

To expand on the three points above, the studio critics will particularly focus on the following in the delivery of the project:
1. Innovative and beautiful design which should be inspiring to visitors but relevant to the local area and climate, and to Rioja and wine in particular.
2. Environmental respect and sustainability. The design must be centered around the development of a design proposal that addresses issue of social, economic and environmental sustainability design in a holistic and integrated way.
3. Commercial viability, both in a PURE operational sense, but also from a point of view of being able to attract visitors and have an element of uniqueness about it.

Why Rioja ?

Wine has been produced and consumed in the Rioja region since pre-Roman times, and has always had a strong focus in society, not only as a drink but also through religion, celebration and community. The region is stunning and provides a magnificent backdrop for any architectural project.

Riojans have a strong appetite for architecture and the arts in general and he region presents a multitude of contrasts, which the students can draw on in considering appropriate design concepts.

Architecture in Rioja

The most famous winery in Rioja is probably the Marques de Riscal, designed by Frank Gehry, but the region has created many other stunning wine projects (partly inspired by Riscal) with Bodegas such as Ysios, Vivanca, and other stunning new designs which contrast dramatically with the traditional bodegas such as Tondonia and La Rioja Alta, which have fiercely preserved their old style and look.

Elsewhere modern architecture abounds in projects such as the hotel Viura, and again this is balanced by the plethora of older buildings such as the cathedral in Logrono and the 19th century merchant houses in Haro, built when it truly was one of the richest cities in the world during the first Riojan wine boom.

Elsewhere in the region Bilbao has created an abundance of architectural sites alongside the Guggenheim, and towns such as San Sebastian and Pamplona also add to the strong identity of the region and the sense of pride that the Basques feel as a people.

Rioja today

Spain is an extremely fragile economy at the moment and has an unemployment rate of over 25%. This is particularly bad and visible in rural areas, and Rioja is no exception. Many once thriving traditional villages are now virtually deserted and the proud Riojans struggle with a lack of employment and a need to move to the cities.

The region needs to rely more than ever on its 2 strong USP’S.. The famous wine trade and its attractions as a tourist destination. Students will be encouraged to consider the need to create a facility that supports both of these activities, thus producing employment and helping maintain community and local activity and opportunity.

Wine and tourism also combines in the annual harvest festival of San Mateo, and this year it will coincide with our trip to Logrono. The Spanish know how to hold a fiesta and the students will experience this first hand!

The Site

John has twice visited the region in preparation for the studio and has identified a beautiful site on one of the greatest Estates in the region, the Dinastia Vivanco near to Haro, and has identified a parcel of land in a stunningly beautiful location with a backdrop of a church, a hill, rows of vineyards, and the river Ebro which will be as the location for the design project.

Additionally he has secured the support of the Estate owners, Rafael and Santiago Vivanco, who have offered the facilities of the Estate during our visit and their personal participation as and when required. They are also passionate about education and have created a facility unique in the wine world, complete with tasting rooms, lecture halls, the world’s largest wine library  and museum, and a host of wine related resources. There should be an opportunity to harvest grapes during our visit and it is possible that we will try some of the wines..

Google Earth Image of the Dinastia Vivanco Site, near to Haro in the Rioja Region.

Making wine is a passionate endeavor, making Architecture that adds to rather than taking away from the world is also about passion and endeavor. The four studio critics are passionate about everything that they do and will consider it a failure if this is not the most energizing and challenging studio that the participating students have ever experienced!


London July 2013