Architect Fernando Moral Andres transforms a hole in a crumbling hill in the Spanish countryside into an elegant restaurant-cum-winery.
According to the last obtained records, Moratinos in the Palencia province of Spain has a population of 76. Popular travel websites don’t have much more than a line or two to say about it. One website calls Moratinos “one of Spain’s least visited cities.” It’s only claim to fame is the fact that it lies along the Camino de Santiago, a thousand year-old pilgrimage route now also popular with trekkers and bikers.
This and its proximity to Palencia, the capital of the province is probably what sparked the thought of converting the village castle into a restaurant. And thus the Castle Winery project was born! The Léon-based firm Moral Arquitectura was signed on for the project.
The Castle Winery project was envisaged as a 200-year old wine vault in a restaurant. Low-lying brown hills make up the topography of the surroundings. The space itself is lodged inside a hill made up of compact soil. Un-plastered brick walls and a wooden ceiling make up the entrance foyer. The fireplace helps create a warm and cosy ambience. This is purely the staging area before the visitor moves on to the real stage.
The ancient underground tunnel has been designed to serve as the main dining area. The nip in the air and sense of adventure mingle and create goose-bumps as one walks through history towards the heart of the Castle Winery. The décor here is minimalist, anything more would have been over the top and unnecessary. The designer has let the natural setting dominate; the walls are grainy and the surface irregular. The old vault of the castle was excavated and carved completely by hand to accommodate the dining room.
The dining room too is bereft of any adornments; there is no room for ornate sculptures or elaborate paintings. The play of light on the textured walls creates the art. Dark wooden tables and chairs, and white and beige table linen and ceramic work in perfect sync with the setting.
The bar, kitchens and the auxiliary dependences find place in the newly constructed block. Here, tinted concrete with a wrought finish has been used on all the surfaces. The key during the designing and the execution was to ensure that there was a sense of continuity between all the spaces of the complex. Fernando says, “I cannot divide it, it is impossible. The area, the access, the cave…it can only be understood as a sequence when it is perceived in a continuous manner.”
The location, the size and scale of the Castle Winery as well as its design demands added to the difficulty quotient of this project. The original hill had suffered a fair amount of damage which had to be considered as the construction went underway. Architect Fernando says, “It was not a project with a definite form. There was definite strategy and the rest followed from that. A highly vague construction system had to be used to ensure that none of the fundamental values of the design would be lost.”
Architect Fernando believes that Spain is seeing the evolution of a sincere style of architecture. This new style has done away with all the unnecessary complements. Today, there is a much more studied approach and the focus is to find an adequate fit between the design and the materials. He adds, “I believe that a stage of attractive risk is opened and that it will centre much more on the persons and on a more essential architecture.”
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Jorge López-Conde