Location: Savennières, France
Program: Vineyard public space
Category: Master’s Thesis
Advisor: Gary Hilderbrand
Year: 2015-2016

From Territory to Terroir: Vineyard Public Space

The French concept of terroir claims that characteristics of place can be traced through a wine’s taste. Yet, today local characteristics tend to be overshadowed by the globalized wine-market where large corporations shape the production, distribution, and consumption of wine worldwide, creating wines with a uniform taste. In the Loire Valley, there is a counter current whereby a growing number of its vintners have reintroduced traditional and ecological growing techniques to bring out the true taste of the terroir in the wine.  

Using site-specific and economical means, the thesis provides the rudiments for a shared public space. A seasonally-revolving public vineyard space expresses local rituals, site and soil particularities, and unique micro-climates. This public space fosters people’s understanding of the necessity for the particular in vineyard landscapes thus demonstrating how public vineyard space can express terroir.

Over 100 000 people per year migrate from urban to rural areas in France seeing the countryside as an attractive destination. Yet, this “neo-rural” lifestyle is disconnected from the surroundings and opportunities for exchange and understanding of viticulture are limited. This thesis vouches for developing vineyard public space through a deeper manifestation of terroir thus reconnecting locals with their surroundings. The vast territory of vineyard tracts in the Loire Valley is the ideal locus for a unique and temporal public space blending productive, ecological, didactic, and contemplative purposes. The vineyard becomes a complex public space--a space of exchange and strengthened social ties among producers, locals, consumers, and tourists--that offers a model for reordering the experience of the territory.

A seasonally-revolving public vineyard space expresses local rituals, site and soil particularities, and unique micro-climates.

French Wine Growing Regions & Cities
Source: Corine Land Cover, IGN

Public Network Plan - 1/2000

Existing and Proposed Rotational Cycles

Vineyard Parcels in 1958

Public Use Today 

Public Use in 20+ Years

Public Use in 40+ Years

“La Place” Site Plan

Harvest time is the single-most important event in the year.

Inhabiting a fallow parcel between the rows, La Place becomes a shared gathering space celebrating the harvest season and fostering unique social ties between vintners, seasonal workers, and locals.

Seasonal Variation of Groundcover within the Rows of Vines

“La Coulée” - Site Plan

La Coulée is a stream valley where fog and moisture are formed.

An intermittent boardwalk solidifies pre-existing desire lines and crosses the stream in distinct ways to experience the field, the marsh, and the forest of the moist valley.

Valley Section

“La Terrasse” - Site Plan 

A series of shallow terraces offer a flat surface for vintners to burn.

Using a non-planted parcel for burning allows for rejuvenation of the soil with the ashes from the cuttings. After a couple of years, the soil's organic matter is sufficient to replant.

Detail of Viewpoint
“La Terrasse” - Heat accumulation and nutrient recharge are enhanced

Terroir Consituents 

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