Mediterranean Gardening France

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November / novembre 2015
Visit to Château La Coste

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19 MGF members gathered north of Aix-en-Provence at the wine domain of Château la Coste for a very different type of garden visit. Instead of admiring beautiful plants in magnificent gardens, we looked at an amazing collection of buildings and sculpture, designed by world leading architects and sculptors, set in a stunning park. It was an exceptional day, much enjoyed by all.

Château la Coste was bought by a Belfast-born property developer, Paddy McKillen, in 2004. The vineyard produces a range of biodynamic wines, which we sampled with our lunch. However it is not the wine, but the architecture and art, which are the most remarkable features of the domain. It is a refreshing change to find a vineyard owner who has commissioned a collection of exceptional buildings and sculpture which are accessible to the public, and which will remain for posterity! The masterplan is by Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, and he has designed the elegant and delicate concrete Centre d’Art, at the heart of the domain.

We arrived at the Centre, in a flurry of rain and atmospheric low cloud. Fortunately the rain stopped and the clouds gradually lifted so our walkabout was dry overhead, although wet underfoot. After coffee, we received a briefing from one of the charming and helpful members of staff who issued us all with plans of the park. These showed a suggested route, with all the sculptures and buildings marked and annotated. The walk was designed to take two hours.

Brief briefing
Setting off

As we set off on our self-guided tour, the Louise Bourgeois spider* crouched menacingly over the lake. It was the perfect time of year to visit, as the autumn colours were wonderful, particularly the reddish golden browns of the vines, which covered the hillside. The linearity of the Ando buildings reflect the formal lines of vines which march down the hill, as does the avenue of cypresses, planted more recently.

Rows of vines reflected in the linear glazing
of the Ando buildings
Cypresses in a formal line

The Ando chapel commands one of the highest points in the park and is a delightful juxtaposition of old and new.

Tadao Ando CHAPEL 2011

The Frank O. Gehry music pavilion probably provoked more debate than any of the other works of art. It hovers over the vines like a space capsule, and from some viewpoints reminded me of Pick-Up-Sticks! It started life in London as a Serpentine Pavilion. We were able to test the rain protection afforded by the de-constructed roof, as it started to rain again towards the end of our tour.

Frank O. Gehry PAVILION DE MUSIQUE 2008
Pick-Up-Sticks

One of the charms of the sculpture park is the spacious layout of the installations in the beautiful park, and another is the variety of works exhibited there. The gravity defying huge suspended crystals by Tunga were fascinating, and the colourful sliding screens by Liam Gillick were surprisingly compelling.

Tunga PSICOPOMPOS 2011
Liam Gillick MULTIPLIED RESISTENCE SCREENED 2010

Sean Scully’s colourful rocks were stunning when viewed from across the vines but less so, I thought, when viewed close up. The Alexander Calder mobile* magnificently reflects the autumn colours of the trees.

Sean Scully WALL OF LIGHT CUBED 2007

A delicious lunch awaited us at the Centre and it was most gratifying that we were able to watch a heavy rainstorm through the glazed facades. Afterwards we visited the new art gallery in one of the old buildings, where we able to see paintings by Sean Scully and his designs for the rock sculpture. Finally we had the opportunity to stock up with some Château la Coste wines.

Sean Scully sketches

All of us found this a most rewarding visit and appreciated the efforts of Nicola D’Annunzio who organised it.

Text and photographs: Gill Robinson

Here are some additional photos of the art and architecture by Sara Robinson and Ian Davis:

Larry Neufeld DONEGAL 2013

Richard Senna AIX 2008
Hirosho Sugimoto MATHEMATICAL MODEL 012
SURFACE OF REVOLUTION WITH CONSTANT
NEGATIVE CURVATURE 2010
Tom Shannon DROP 2009

Tadao Ando FOUR CUBES TO CONTEMPLATE OUR ENVIRONMENT 2008-2011
Inside the Tadao Ando pavilion are four cubic light boxes sitting inside a dark space.
The cubes are entitled: Water, CO2, Rubbish and Future?

Tracey Emin SELF-PORTRAIT:
CAT INSIDE A BARREL 2013

* For copyright reasons we are not permitted to include images of
Louise Bourgeois’s ‘CROUCHING SPIDER’ and Alexander Calder’s ‘SMALL CRINKLY’.
Go to the website of Château La Coste to see photographs of these wonderful sculptures.