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Stylish container transformation by former Block winners

 

No detail was overlooked when it came to creating an innovative venue in a Marlborough vineyard – from its creative architectural design to its welcoming interior that combines relaxed hospitality with sophisticated electrical solutions.

The Vineyard Pavilion was built for Constellation Brands NZ, one of New Zealand’s largest wine companies and the country’s largest exporter of New Zealand wine, with its brands Kim Crawford and Nobilo the top two local wine brands in North America.

Hosting distributors, sales people and affiliates is a core component of its business and the company’s International Customer Liaison, Felicity Nelson, says there was a need for a space that could showcase the Marlborough vineyard and the Kim Crawford brand in a striking way. “I had a vision of what I wanted: to be able to host 25 people in the vineyard and to have great views. It was to be something modern and out of the box that would fit with the brand.” Constellation Brands also wanted energy saving elements as the Pavilion would need to run ‘off-the-grid’, powered by a gas generator.

Nelson engaged Special Projects, an Auckland-based architecture and design team that specialises in engineering creative solutions. Their answer was a shipping container – but with a difference. From the outside, the container looks weathered and forgotten, as though left to rust in the vineyard. Flanked by two decks, the clue that it somehow opens comes from two large inset steel arcs. The container walls then pivot out on large steel wheels that track along the arcs, revealing an interior dining area and tasting space, with views around the vineyard.

Corban Walls, director and engineer at Special Projects (and former winner of The Block NZ with wife Alex), says this innovative aspect is a play on the arc that any door makes when you open it. “We thought, ‘What if we actually used these big doors and had cast steel wheels so they roll on these big arced tracks and you can really see the path the door has taken?’ It created a whole other element and all we were doing was displaying the pathway of the door.”

With the surrounding vineyard lush and green, Walls says they chose a moodier look inside. “We wanted to work with warm timber tones with dark elements as well and that’s why we’ve gone with that rich purpley brown wall paint. It’s a very unusual colour, but is reflected in the rust of some of the exterior as well. And dark tiles helped to tighten up the space, too.”

Such dramatic interior tones called for fittings to match, as Special Projects wanted the space to be open, with nothing hidden away. “Obviously, we wanted to go with appliances and electrical fixtures that were very aesthetically pleasing – that’s why we selected the Saturn Horizon range,” explains Walls. “It’s got a brushed metal face and throughout the structure we’ve used raw black steel in a lot of places and having that brushed black face emulated that colour really well. All the textures are metal, ceramic, glass and timber, so having plasticky light switches just wouldn’t have worked.”

The sophisticated textural Saturn Horizon range features push button mechanism with LED indicators and was used across switches, power outlets and dimmers in the pavilion. Its circular buttons also echo the circle that features on the Kim Crawford wine label, a shape that is referenced again in the semi-circular arc of the doors’ paths and in the venue’s new name, ‘The Spot’.

Felicity Nelson says it was this sort of attention to detail that made the project exceptional. “All of those parts became part of creating this very cool venue. We love that the switches are flush, we love that they light up, and that they’re all very modern and in keeping with the style of the interior.” She says they have even become a talking point for guests. “Everybody has their cameras out when they come in and they look at them and say ‘Wow! I’ve never seen any like this before’. It all just works and we’ve never had a fault.”

Gail Lewis, Constellation Brands NZ’s Marlborough Hospitality Manager, is responsible for the day to day running of the pavilion and says the PDL by Schneider Electric Saturn Horizon range is the perfect complement to the space. “They’re nice to touch, they’re inconspicuous and very stylish and they just fit so well with the building.”

For Corban Walls, it is the unexpected nature of the Saturn range that appeals. “It’s my go to. There aren’t very many things that you get to interact with regularly on a daily basis – maybe your door handle and your light switch. For me, it’s the icing on the cake. We weren’t going to go for a standard light switch and with this Saturn range a lot of people look at it and think twice – and who looks at a light switch and thinks twice? People don’t normally think that about something as mundane as a switch or a socket.”

PDL by Schneider Electric’s solutions for energy saving at the venue included LED dimmers to improve ambience with light level adjustment, an automatic motion sensor to turns lights on and off automatically in the toilet areas, and a time delay relay device to bring power on to the pavilion in stages from its gas generator and to prevent it overloading on start-up.

All these elements combine to help create a space that is unexpected and striking while also being functional. Nelson says she loves showing it to guests for the first time. “We walk towards it and the doors are shut, and then as it opens up all the lights are on and the music is playing (a special mix created by a New York DJ as part of the project), and everybody just comes in and says ‘Wow’”. It’s beautiful and I am so proud – it’s something that we’ve waited to do for a very long time.”

For the team at Special Projects, it ranks as a favourite. “I think this is probably our best work,” says Walls. “In terms of creativity, we went all out on it. The client was so good in allowing us to do what we thought was best that we didn’t compromise on anything.”

 

Project: Vineyard Pavilion, Marlborough
Client: Constellation Brands NZ
Design and construction: Special Projects (Corban Walls, Fraser Horton, Reuben Yeoman)
Interior Design: Alex & Corban
Electrical Solutions: PDL by Schneider Electric