Chateau La Coste – Provence, France

Located just 15 km outside of Aix-en-Provence, sprawled over 500 acres in the outskirts of the village of Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade,the biodynamic vineyard Chateau La Coste is a delightful blend of wine, contemporary art and stunning architecture.

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Set up in 2004, the chateau is the brainchild of Paddy McKillen, an Irish art collector, and features the works of a number of handpicked internationally renown artists and architects.

From the first steps you take on the property you are greeted by The Gate and Art Centre built by Tadao Ando, as well as one of Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spiders.

Overall, there are over 30 sculptures, art installations and  buildings scattered along a path throughout the grounds, but in this post I will only be talking about the ones which stood out the most for me.

The photo below is Kengo Kuma’s Komorebi. Kuma is the architect who designed the 2020 Olympic Stadium in Tokyo and this is a depiction of his trademark use of space – incredibly heavy while at the same time somehow evoking a certain lightness.

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Obviously, my favourite art installation was the one with the giant gem stones! Tunga’s Psicopompos reflects his work in the tradition of human work on minerals, the laws of transformation and the link between mineral and spirit.

Scales made of cast iron are suspended in an archway made of stone with the counterweight being different at all three arches – single block of quartz, a glass prism, and a cast iron net full of pieces of rose quartz.

The vibrant red of Jean-Michel Othoniel’s Croix Rouge is a beautiful juxtaposition to Tadao Ando’s restored 16th century chapel. The small slits behind the alter are the only source of light inside this dark rectangular space.

Located at the pinnacle of the tour, the chapel allows for sweeping, unobstructed views over the surrounding vineyards and countryside.

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I have to say that Richard Serra, in my opinion, is an acquired taste. Known for the unique way he oxidises industrial metal, his works are almost always “in situ’, meaning that they cannot be extracted from their geographical context without losing the originally intended meaning.

After seeing his monumental installation outside of Doha earlier this year, it was easier to appreciate the significance of this piece and its interaction with the surrounding environment.

To break up our walking tour we had called ahead and reserved lunch at the restaurant at Villa La Coste. Perched atop a hill at the back of the estate, the villa has 28 suites, and is home to the one Michelin star restaurant Louison by Gerald Passedat (whose creativity we had also enjoyed at Le Petit Nice).

Our light, rosé-fueled lunch featured some perfectly chilled gazpacho, and a selection of house salads and vegetables, and after a delightful ristretto we continued on our very merry way 🙂

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Tadao Ando is probably the most prominently-featured architect throughout the estate. His Japanese pavilion, called Four Cubes to Contemplate Our Environment – exhibits his signature style of simplicity of the forms – an architectural monument encouraging the visitor to contemplate our sense of responsibility for the future of the world around us.

One of the biggest attractions on the grounds of the chateau is without a doubt the Frank Gehry Pavillon de Musique. The project was created in 2007 in partnership with the Serpentine Gallery in London, where it was exhibited as their annual architectural installation, prior to being moved to its permanent new home.

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My fiancé, who studied architecture, is a big fan of the self-taught French designer and architect Jean Prouve. He is widely considered as one of the pioneers of prefabricated architecture, and as luck would have it, the chateau is home to a number of his prefabricated houses. Most of them reside in Mr. McKillen’s private garden on the grounds of the estate but one of the curators was kind enough to take us around and give us a personal tour.

This unique hedonistic estate was the perfect stopover on a hot day in the South of France, and one I would highly recommend to anyone who (like us) enjoys mixing art, nature and day drinking 🙂

Oh, and speaking of drinking – the wineries at Chateau La Loste were designed by Jean Nouvel (Louvre Abu Dhabi anyone?), and if you’re on the grounds at 1pm you can take an English guided tour through them 😉

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