For an avid wine collector and drinker, the addition of the Thurston Wine House to the owner’s existing brick residence was an investment in his extensive collection and a statement to one man’s appreciation for wine.

The Wine House carefully displays a respect for its context through its materiality and tectonic language while expressing its unconventional program through more formal elements. Embedded into the topography of the site, the project takes advantage of its landscape by using the slope to decrease the visual impact of structure, allowing unblocked views of the valley and mountains beyond. The southeast elevation, however, reveals the building’s massiveness as the curvilinear shape suggests the path to an inconspicuous garden gate concealing the Wine House below.

The structure is uniquely constructed with a triple wythe shell. The internal wythe uses concrete masonry units (CMU) and absorbs the variety of structural conditions, acting alternately as a 12 ft-8 in. tall retaining wall and a 12 ft-8 in. cantilevered wall throughout the building’s elliptical construction.

Where submerged, the outer wythe is again composed of traditional CMU construction. However, as it emerges above grade, the courses transition to clay brick. Rejecting any superficial finish coat, the inherent qualities of the brick are celebrated and the signature of each brick’s handmade lineage is exposed.

The design provides a variety of very singular, and yet collective, experiences, all of which enrich the program. The entertaining capability of the existing house flows seamlessly to the Wine House’s rooftop terrace, offering the perfect setting to enjoy a glass of one’s favorite wine with guests. As one descends the adjacent stairs into the wine room itself, the brick ascends skyward and the running bond throughout the project gives way to stacked bond coursing at the entry door.

As the project is partially underground, the Wine House also benefits from the thermal storage capacity of the brick by greatly reducing the demand of the mechanical systems throughout the year. Every design detail reinforces that brick masonry was the ideal choice for this project.

For more of Thurston Wine House, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture. It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.