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Thursday, October 4, 2012

WORLD ARCHITECTURE / San Marcos, CA and Napa Valley, CA

WIRE BASKET DÉCOR—The ancient wall building technique of gabions (creating wire cages and filling them with rocks) made a return in an award winning landscape design at Ryland Homes’ Bella Vista Plan 2 (Villa Serena) in San Marcos, CA.

GIANT GABIONS--International team of architects championed wall sized gabions to create the spectacular architecture of Napa Valley's Dominus Estate Winery located in Yountville, CA.

GABION DESIGN REDUX--Ryland Homes and SJA Landscape Architecture were honored for the landscape architecture at Bella Vista Homes in San Elijo Hills (San Marcos area) at the recent Icon Awards, sponsored by the San Diego Building Industry Association (BIA).  Russ Johnston, partner at SJA Landscape Architecture, designed the exterior to include colorful drought tolerant landscaping and gabions filled with local stone. 

Many of us might not be familiar with the term gabion.  It’s an ancient building technique best explained in architectural terms as rock-filled wire cages.  Gabions have been used in civil engineering and for erosion control for centuries.

In the case of this blog’s two photo examples, gabion usage is far more decorative.  At the Bella Vista, plan 2 homes, the gabions are filled with local stone. The look is classy and obviously impressed the BIA judges.

Gabions at Dominus Estate Winery in the Napa Valley used gabions structurally as well as cosmetically.  Northern California-based Valley Architects was the resident architecture firm for Dominus Estate, working in concert with Pritzker Prize winner Herzog & de Meuron Architects of Basel, Switzerland. This ground breaking and much publicized winery facility was designed to work within the natural landscape with its long, low rock facade blending beautifully with the vineyard and surrounding hills. The linear plan was developed to work with the evolution of the product from picked fruit to bottled wine. A hallmark of this internationally acclaimed firm, rock from a nearby quarry is used to sheath the building in wall sized gabions.

Dominus' winery is the first project realized in the United States by the design architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Based in Basel, Switzerland, they are well-known for their numerous European projects, including in London the Tate Gallery's new Bankside facilities. The architects were also amongst the three finalists for the Museum of Modern Art's new museum in New York.

Set back in the Napa vineyard, the dark green basalt rock building integrates into the landscape. It is a linear construction 140 meters (462 feet) long, 25 meters (82 feet) wide and 8 meters (27 feet high). The exterior is composed of walls of gabions, which are essentially galvanized baskets containing stones. Commonly round retaining river banks or earthwalls, this application as a building’s exterior facade is unique and provides protection from the scorching heat by day and the cold at night. The gabion baskets have no 'mortar' and the spaces between the rocks act as a 'filigree,' allowing the passage of natural light into the rooms during the day and artificial light to radiate out at night.

For more photos of gabion use at Dominus Estate taken by photographer Robert Divers Herrick II go to:

For more images of the winery:

For information on Bella Vista’s Ryland homes,
visit or 
Visitor Center Hours : 10am-5pm Daily
111 Elfin Forest Road West
San Marcos, CA 92078
Phone: (760) 798-1765

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