Roger Ridsdill Smith is a Fellow of The Institution of Structural Engineers and leads Foster + Partners’ Structural Engineering team. He has won several prizes for his work, including the Royal Academy of Engineering 2010 Silver Medal. Here he discusses the new winery at Château Margaux in France, which has been shortlisted in The Structural Awards 2015.

Our philosophy at Foster + Partners is that the best projects arise from a totally integrated approach to the design process, where the core disciplines work together to conceive and design a project from its earliest inception. Our structural group started five years ago; we are now around thirty strong, and growing. We work on projects all over the world, ranging in scale from a recently completed Canopy beside the Old Port in Marseille to a new airport in Tocumen, Panama, which is currently under construction. We are delighted to be shortlisted for a Structural Award for Château Margaux.

The combination of the technical brief and the historic location meant that the project had unique challenges. Winemaking requires strict environmental control, both for the initial fermentation stage and then for the subsequent storage of the wine, initially in barrels and finally in bottles. The process needs a large, flexible space, primarily for the fermentation tanks, and their technical servicing requirements. At the same time Château Margaux is a protected ancient monument, and the winery is the first new building to be built on the site for 200 years. So our design was strongly influenced by its context.

The structure evolved through a continuous exchange with the architects, the environmental engineers, and the specialist modelling skills of the practice. The introduction of the tree columns provides support and fixity to the roof beams and consequently shortens their effective span. The tree columns also resist the axial loads that arise from the pitch in the roof, once again reducing the moment that the roof beams need to resist. As a result, a flexible internal column free space is created, spanned by a structure that is less than half the depth of a standard roof grid.

Tree column

The other major structural aspect of the design is the ‘technical’ wall which runs along each side of the fermentation tanks. This contains all of the services that the winemaking process requires, leaving the main space uncluttered by pipes and ducts.

In my experience, it is possible to understand a lot about the nature of the design process of a building by looking at the finished product. This project was a pleasure to work on, a true collaboration, and we are very proud of the result.

Visit The Structural Awards website to learn more about the Awards.


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