Mir­ror on Na­ture


Azure - - CONTENTS - By Bert Archer

A de­con­structed ho­tel by Uruguay’s MAPA doesn’t just blend into its bu­colic set­ting – it “am­pli­fies” it

A ho­tel that nearly dis­ap­pears

within a re­flec­tion of its sur­round­ings may seem like the ul­ti­mate in low-im­pact tourism. But the ethe­real, mir­ror­clad fa­cade of Uruguay’s Sacromonte Crafted Wines and Land­scape Ho­tel, a get­away de­signed by Mon­te­v­ideo-based firm MAPA, re­veals only part of the project. In­deed, walk around to the other side of the build­ing – one of four 60-square-me­tre units spread out over the 100-hectare site – and you’ll see a riot of wood: a fa­cade in­spired by fire­wood cords, com­posed of var­i­ously sized logs cut to 25-cen­time­tre lengths. Stacked to­gether and at­tached to the build­ing’s steel frame, they make for a nearly 40-cen­time­tre-thick wall – and cre­ate a stark con­trast to that filmy one-way mir­ror. As it turns out, MAPA doesn’t want to blend in to the land­scape; it seeks to heighten it, to com­bine the cul­tural and the nat­u­ral with the ex­press in­tent of im­prov­ing both. What the firm calls a land­scape ho­tel forms part of a vine­yard ex­pe­ri­ence de­vel­oped in Uruguay’s Mal­don­ado De­part­ment by Ed­mond Borit, a Peru­vian food ex­ec­u­tive who fell in love with the coun­try while work­ing there over 10 years. “It’s like the wine,” MAPA ar­chi­tect Diego Mor­era says of the brief. “There are only five hectares of vine­yards. Sacromonte has the pos­si­bil­ity to cul­ti­vate a much larger area, but in or­der to keep the wine qual­ity high, they don’t want all the land­scape to be used as a pro­duc­tive space. It’s the same for the ho­tel.”

The ini­tial re­sult is just four shel­ters – each made of pre-fab steel – that re­spond to their par­tic­u­lar set­tings. Perched on in­di­vid­ual, uniquely shaped decks with pri­vate sunken pools, the sin­gle-fam­ily re­treats are equipped with a king-size bed, a niche with a daybed suit­able for a child and a wood-burn­ing fire­place (for am­bi­ence and to cook food that may be de­liv­ered to or­der). The lay­outs are or­ga­nized as a se­ries of what MAPA de­scribes as lon­gi­tu­di­nal planes: The sleep­ing and din­ing zones are sep­a­rated by slid­ing doors, while the kitchen and bathing ar­eas are lo­cated be­hind a wood wall. By mid-2019, there will be a cen­tral re­cep­tion build­ing and nine more shel­ters (each 25 square me­tres). Ac­cord­ing to the mas­ter plan, how­ever, none of these el­e­ments will be vis­i­ble from any other, al­low­ing guests to en­joy their sur­round­ings in soli­tude and mak­ing for some­thing of a de­con­structed ho­tel. Wine lovers jour­ney­ing to this idyl­lic land­scape are met at a small, grassy park­ing lot – on the far side of a hill that masks the site from the road – by staff in small elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Once de­liv­ered to their rooms, guests will find their own elec­tric cars to get around the site. As they wan­der, whether by car or on foot, they’ll en­counter var­i­ous “land­scape am­pli­fiers” crafted by Por­tu­gal’s Por­til­ame in cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber. These in­clude a chapel, three 2.5-me­tre-long kalei­do­scopes and a long ta­ble that can com­fort­ably seat 50. “Be­cause the vine­yards are so small,” says MAPA ar­chi­tect and co-founder An­drés Gobba, “Sacromonte seeks to of­fer, in the 100 hectares, many mi­croland­scapes to be ex­plored. There’s an old mar­ble quarry, a big hill, the vine­yards, a lawn and a stream with na­tive veg­e­ta­tion. We wanted to en­hance and lev­er­age them so vis­i­tors can ex­pe­ri­ence them prop­erly.”

“[There are] many mi­croland­scapes to be ex­plored. We wanted to en­hance and lev­er­age them so vis­i­tors can ex­pe­ri­ence them prop­erly”

By mid-2019, there will be a cen­tral re­cep­tion build­ing and nine more shel­ters … none vis­i­ble from any other

These am­pli­fiers are meant to both draw at­ten­tion to them­selves – they are not nat­u­ral shapes or scales – and re­di­rect the viewer’s gaze to the land­scape. The ta­ble, with its ec­cen­tric cut-outs, is set on grass and of­fers sun­set vis­tas dur­ing com­mu­nal tast­ings of Sacromonte’s small-batch wines. The kalei­do­scopes – each lined with mir­rors and large enough to crawl into – frac­ture and in­ten­sify their sur­round­ings (re­spec­tively, a stream, a val­ley and – in the dis­tance – Sacromonte it­self). And the chapel – made of two six-by-nine-me­tre walls lean­ing to­ward each other, one of which is punc­tured by a black box that looks a bit like a hor­i­zon­tal chim­ney from one an­gle and a com­pet­ing mass from an­other – is set in a small clear­ing in a vine­yard. Though the nar­row en­clo­sure, with its evoca­tive lines and ves­ti­gial coun­te­nance, does ac­com­mo­date vis­i­tors, it also acts as an ob­ject of con­tem­pla­tion from afar. De­spite be­ing South Amer­ica’s sec­ond-small­est coun­try, Uruguay has long punched above its weight when it comes to in­no­va­tive ar­chi­tec­ture. Past projects of note in­clude Ela­dio Di­este’s world-fa­mous brick struc­tures and the dra­matic sub­ter­ranean mau­soleum that Lu­cas Ríos Demalde and Ale­jan­dro Morón de­signed in hon­our of the na­tion’s founder. More re­cently, Rafael Viñoly’s cir­cu­lar bridge for the La­guna Garzón and a café-bak­ery sen­si­tively in­stalled by Pe­dro Livni in a Mon­te­v­ideo her­itage build­ing have gen­er­ated buzz. MAPA’S pro­found yet sim­ple de­sign style seems des­tined to carry the torch. In ad­di­tion to pur­su­ing projects in neigh­bour­ing Brazil, the firm is con­sid­er­ing open­ing a North Amer­i­can of­fice. For now, how­ever, one of the best places to ex­pe­ri­ence its though­ful, site-specfic work are 100 rolling hectares in Uruguay’s south­east. ma­paarq.com, sacromonte.com

LEFT: The fa­cades of Sacromonte’s four cab­ins are com­posed of var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als, from mir­rored fronts (on pre­vi­ous spread) to slat­ted-wood slid­ing walls.

ABOVE: On an­other side of the mir­rored cabin, a 15-cen­time­tre-thick steel frame sup­ports logs of var­i­ous di­am­e­ters to form a 40-cen­time­tre-thick wall.

ABOVE: A non­de­nom­i­na­tional chapel punc­tured by a black box (or viewfinder) can it­self be seen as a sculp­ture from afar.

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