Shaw Wines is a family owned and operated business located in Murrumbateman, NSW. Melanie Basta speaks to Dean Kensit and Nick Pelle from ACT-based Oztal Architects about the project, as well as Kevin Tanchevski, builder and project manager for the cellar door.
A passion project like this could only be a success with the strong ties between the client—a builder-turned-business owner—and the architects and builders.
The cellar door, completed last year, took a total of 14 months to build. Built across an area of 750 metres squared, it was constructed out of three main materials; concrete, timber and glass.
Oztal Architects had worked with Shaw Wines owner, Graeme Shaw, before this particular build. As a former builder, Shaw turned to the wine industry, taking with him a wealth of knowledge and eye for detail in the building industry. “We’ve done work for Graeme a long time ago and we’ve known him from when he was in the building industry. For him it was important to have someone he would work with very closely and take his dreams on board,” says Nick Pelle, director at Oztal.
“The law was laid out from the client. They all took a bit of pride in what they were doing and were prepared to wait if they needed to get a particular contractor on board – some artists were involved in doing the windows.”
A major part of this build was the concrete and the biggest challenge was making sure all the client’s needs were met. “The feature of the building was the off-white concrete spine – there’s barely any plasterboard [in the whole cellar door]. For a job like this, a collaborative approach is the only way and it pretty much came down to old school thinking, with on site meetings and working together. We met with the subcontractors, the architects and made sure everyone had their two cents,” says Kevin Tanchevski, builder and project manager at Pier Projects.
The concrete spine spans over 53 metres and tapers inwards one degree for an internal staircase cavity. The in-situ concrete wall comprised 18 individual pours with 1700 square metres of formwork, 30 tonnes of steel and took 250 cube metres of 32 MPa (megapascal) off-white concrete. A team of six worked for over six months to complete the concrete parts of this build. It stands as the central pillar of the cellar door, dividing the building in two separate butterfly wings.
“It’s important to work closely with the architects and the clients. Often what we find is that builders are reluctant to question us because they think they’ll be rejected but we actually like to work with them and seek their expertise because then we end up with a much better product,” says Pelle.
“When we showed the client our options, he went away from his initial preconception and was quite open to what we had. We combined elements like timber and steel and glass and he was quite taken by that,” says Pelle.
Another unique feature of this build was the 3.2 metre high feature glass window, filled with 750 recycled wine and champagne glasses. It was broken into three sections and installed into the direct wall in front of the staircase, with the window drawing attention to the underground cellar downstairs.
Tanchevski weighs in on this build as a career highlight. “This is a once in a lifetime job, this cellar door. When you have someone who has four million dollars that they’re willing to spend, on a little cellar door, it’s pretty cool. Shaw was a builder for 40 years in Canberra and he knew exactly what he wanted,” says Tanchevski. Visual appeal was a key factor. The finish of the colours, testing prior to pours and creation of a prototype were completed prior to construction.
“Structurally, everything was pre-fabbed and designed. There was lots of back and forth with construction and the engineers,” says architect, Dean Kensit.
“We used timber cladding, and chose a timber that doesn't require a lot of maintenance. We made sure to fix the timber so we couldn’t see the screw fixings and we spent a lot of time with the builder and supplier of the cladding,” adds Pelle.
Tanchevski drew on his experience with high-end finishes in a large project – the 120 million dollar Australian Federal Police forensics facility in Canberra – to assist with successfully undertaking the cellar door. “I’ve been exposed to the QA processes. For novice builders, be careful. You need to have attention to detail and an open book management style. And as long as you have a good rapport with your subcontractors, they’ll deliver quality for you.”
Regarding his career choice, Tanchevski finds it hard to see himself doing anything else. “I was born into it. You see the success that your father and your uncle delivered. It’s easy to get to the top, but it's harder to stay there, so that’s the challenge I have.”
From the concrete spine and building to the hand-constructed timber cladding for the wine tasting room ceiling and exterior entryway, an extensive range of materials were sourced from a number of different countries to achieve the desired ‘handcrafted’ effect. It really is a once in a lifetime project.
Images: Adrien Labutte — Evolve Timelapse