The Crouching Spider installation by Louise Bourgeois.
The rooms of the chateau are tastefully appointed.
Full length sliding glass doorsin the guest rooms allow visitors to take in the inspiring views around the property.
As soon as you enter Chateau La Coste, it’s obvious that the estate is not just about the organic wine produced by master winemaker Raymond Gimenez, who has been working at the domain for the past 40 years.
The estate is also a marvel of contemporary art and architecture. There’s a pair of 10m-tall, half-cylindrical and hangar-like winemaking chaisin shiny aluminium, designed by Jean Nouvel, a minimalist; an angular V-shaped art centre in raw concrete and glass with reflecting pools imagined by Tadao Ando; and Frank Gehry’s abstract and chaotic pavilion of wooden beams, glass and steel, in the shape of an deconstructed barn with piped in music.
Wander farther afield and you’ll spy oversized reflective metal plates planted vertically into the ground, designed by Richard Serra, to encourage visitors to view their surroundings from new perspectives.
Other spectacular artworks include Larry Neufeld’s Japanese and Roman slate bridges; Sean Scully’s 1,000-tonne cuboid of individually selected blocks of grey, blue and red limestone; as well as Oak Room, a bird’s nest sculpture by artist Andy Goldsworthy.
A LAND OF WONDER
Set amid the hills just north of Aix-en-Provence, the 202ha estate (of which 121ha are devoted to biodynamically cultivated vineyards) is a world-class open-air museum starring 34 major works by the biggest names in art and architecture, which was purchased in 2002 by Belfast-born art collector and property magnate Patrick McKillen, also known as Paddy.
He holds an international portfolio with interests in office and retail developments, and which consists of the Maybourne Hotel Group that encompasses five-star hotels The Connaught, Claridge’s and The Berkeley in London. Thus, it’s unsurprising that he has access to just about any architect in the world.
Starting in 2004, he began inviting famous architects and artists whom he calls his friends to Chateau La Coste, giving them carte blanche to set up works in response to the landscape. Almost all of them have come to the property to create permanent site-specific installations, each thoughtfully curated by McKillen for whom this is a deeply personal project.
Ambient lighting in the dining hall adds to the romantic atmosphere in the evenings.
Not just a home for art, the resort also offers plenty of space for reflection.
Visitors can expect a range of delectable dishes in the chateau’s fine-dining restaurant.
Chateau’s fine-dining restaurant.
HE IIVITED ARCHITECTS AND ARTISTS TO CHATEAU LA COSTE, GIVING THEM CARTE BLANCHE TO SET UP THEIR WORKS
With no underlying theme, they were given complete creative freedom – and the results are snapshots of the very best of late 20th- and early 21st-century sculpture and architecture, set amidst forests of oak trees and century-old pines, as well as vineyards and meadows of wild flowers.
Rather than keeping those works for himself, McKillen opened the sculpture park to the public in 2011, which today welcomes over 250,000 visitors annually. Most will embark on the two-hour-long Art & Architecture Walk on winding paths to view all the works.
SITE OF UNFETTERED TALENT
To celebrate a sense of place, Andre Fu, the Hong Kong architect behind notable projects like The Upper House, The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Andaz Singapore and Perrotin Tokyo, was commissioned to create the spa, restaurant, bar, salon and library of the property’s boutique hotel, Villa La Coste, which was opened in 2017, and whose design developed through intimate discussions with McKillen.
The 28-suite, five-star hotel was created by Marseille architectural firm Tangram and overlooks the domain’s cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, syrah and vermentino vineyards, with views over the Luberon hills to Mont Ventoux on the horizon.
Decorated with District Eight’s bespoke furniture inspired by a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic, the guest rooms feature walled-in courtyards set up along a typically Provencal shaded, cobbled avenue.
Amid the clean lines, light oak wood, marble and natural stone finishes are McKillen’s personal collection of works by Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Leger, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Yovanovitch, Jean Royere, Ron Arad, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Bernard Frize.
AN ALL-YEAR OUTDOOT ART MUSEUM
Regular temporary exhibitions are held every three months, the latest being Jean Prouve, L’ame Du Metal. It showcases furniture and architectural elements by the famous 20th-century French architect and designer, loaned from Parisian gallerists Laurence and Patrick Seguin’s private collection.
Set to be launched within the next two years are an auditorium conceived by Oscar Niemeyer before his passing, and Louise Bourgeois’ three 9m-high steel towers I Do, I Undo, I Redo to be installed into the Provencal countryside by modern industrial designer Nouvel. The installation will see him excavate part of a hillside and rebuild the shape of the hill with an undulating concrete roof, accessible via a tunnel.
Art lovers can also expect a hybrid of a double-level Skyspace and a mini Roden Crater (significant installations that have been built elsewhere) to observe light, time, and space, embedded into the hill by James Turrell; and The Marriage of New York And Athens trio of pieces created in 1966-1968 by Tony Berlant straddling sculpture. Architecture buffs are in for a treat, with a soon-to-be launched display comprising a range of architecture that references a combination of modern American skyscrapers and the temples of ancient Greece, which will be set up within a three-tower glass pavilion conceived by Gehry, who was influenced by the works of the American artist in his architecture.
CHATEAU LA COSTE HIGHLIGHTS
TADAO ANDO CHAPEL & JEAN-MICHEL OTHONIEL'S LA GRANDE CROIX ROUGE
The cross by the French artist is made from red Murano glass orbs echoing the colour of wine and the blood of Christ. It stands beside Ando’s Modernist chapel in glass and steel, which envelops a restored 16th-century stone structure that once welcomed pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela. The chapel has three openings for daylight to enter the darkened interiors.
JEAN PROUVE GUEST SUITE 30
In 2015, this prefab 6x6 demountable house (originally created in 1944 by one of the key figures in the history of 20th-century architecture and design for war victims in the French region of Lorraine) was refurnished by the architectural firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Modern amenities like electricity, hot water and solar panels, as well as a kitchen and a bathroom, were introduced, making it completely autonomous. It thereby fits into Prouve’s philosophy, which guides the assembly of his structures via the use of clever mechanisms, allowing furniture and buildings to be easily modified, dismantled and moved.
PAUL MATISSE'S MEDITATION BELL
Focusing on sounds, the American sculptor and engineer who’s the grandson of French artist Henri Matisse created a complex, avant-garde bell installation composed of a heavy aluminium tube resting across the tops of two supporting columns, whose mechanism required several years to perfect. The low-frequency sound produced by pulling on a central rope that puts four hammers in motion can be heard by the human ear for only a few minutes, but the vibrations continue for up to 20 minutes.
There are Insta-worthy sights spread out all over the site of the chateau.
The guest rooms overlook the property’s vineyard.
Grape varietals grown in the vineyards include syrah and vermentino, among others.
Q&A WITH DANIEL KENNEDY, CHATEAU LACOSTE'S ART CENTRE MANAGER
You have built a cultural destination where contemporary art, design and architecture are the stars. Tell us more about that.
The emphasis needs to be on the place. We’re in a very culturally rich region, a very popular region, a very beautiful region. This region is so important in art history, and to work with contemporary artists, designers and architects is amazing. Paddy McKillen fell in love with this area, and he has always been interested in design, art and architecture. Some might come to see the art and architecture, some might come for lunch, and some for the wine, but the wine is the foundation of the project. People have been growing wine here for centuries and that’s part of the whole appeal of the landscape, how it’s organised and the aesthetics.
How did you choose which architects to commission to create the different buildings at Chateau La Coste?
Choice is a difficult word because it depends on the different relationships that already exist. Many of them – Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Patrick Seguin for Jean Prouve, Frank Gehry and Tadao Ando – were Paddy’s friends, and some of them have worked with him on other projects; some realised, some not realised. It was natural to invite some of them, to see what they think, talk about it. It might take years to do some projects, while other You have built a cultural destination where contemporary art, design and architecture are the stars. Tell us more about that. The emphasis needs to be on the place. We’re in a very culturally rich region, a very popular region, a very beautiful region. This region is so important in art history, and to work with contemporary artists, designers and architects is amazing. Paddy McKillen fell in love with this area, and he has always been interested in design, art and architecture. Some might come to see the art and architecture, some might come for lunch, and some for the wine, but the wine is the foundation of the project. People have been growing wine here for centuries and projects can be done quite quickly. It’s quite an open process; it’s not like a shopping list or a master plan. We didn’t sit down, pick the world’s top 10 architects and pick a vineyard in the south of France. Then sometimes there’s a lot of blurring between artists and architects. Architect Kengo Kuma has done a sculpture/ architecture. Gehry and Tony Berlant are an architect and an artist working together. Artists Andy Goldsworthy and Sean Scully worked in architectural proportions. That distinction is something that interests Paddy. It creates a dialogue between two creative disciplines that are sometimes divided very clearly, but, here, it’s not so clear.
photos ANDREW PATTMAN and RICHARD HAUGHTON