Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has completed Richard Rogers’ final work begun before his retirement from practice in June 2020. Château La Coste is a 500-acre area of outstanding natural beauty is an internationally renowned destination for art and architecture. Set in Château La Coste’s vineyard, the Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery is a 120m² gallery space that cantilevers off a hillside amongst trees above a historic Roman track, overlooking the ancient ruin of La Quille and the Luberon National Park. It joins the Château La Coste’s Architectural & Art Walk, amongst pavilions by renowned architects including, Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando and Jean Nouvel.
In 2011, Richard was invited to choose a place in the landscape that spoke directly to him and was given the freedom to design a gallery that would live there. The remote and unusual location selected required a bespoke design and fabrication.
Designed to have the lightest of touches on the area and its ecology, the building cantilevers out 27m to a point 18m above the heavily wooded site. Its delicate joints and expressed elements support the lightweight extruded gallery, clad in a naturally finished satin steel, softly mirroring the surrounding landscape.
The external orange steel beams taper as the construction floats outwards into mid-air. Where the building touches the ground, it does so subtly, belying the robust engineering below ground that supports the structure from just one end. Industrial in nature but with elegant handcrafted details, the building is itself a sculpture in this landscape.
You leave the terra firma of the old Roman track and transition across a lightweight bridge to the cantilevering gallery. Walking through the support structure it is here where the visitor experiences a sensation of almost floating.
The gallery’s single rectangular room frames a view of the landscape through the 5x4m opening at its furthest end, beyond extends a terrace, above which the eaves gently jut out buffering the light between inside and out.
The physics of the building, cantilevering as it is in combination with the region’s seismic activity, requires bridge type engineering and construction techniques. The building and its materials needed to be flexible. The cables at the entrance that ground the structure contract and expand, sensitive even to the local climate’s fluctuating temperatures. The poured resin gallery floor flexes in harmony with the structure.
“The gallery is a beautifully handcrafted piece of architecture that soars out dramatically into the canopy of the trees to ‘capture the view’ of the mountains of the Luberon,” says Stephen Spence, RSHP associate partner and project lead. “In contrast to the neutral gallery space, the legibility of the external structure is enhanced by its bold orange colour, specifically chosen both to compliment, but also contrast with the surrounding seasonal landscape.”
High-tech pioneer Rogers is one of the world’s most well-respected architects. Along with the Pritzker Architecture Prize he has been awarded the Royal Gold Medal, American Institute of Architect’s Gold Medal and Praemium Imperiale, while his studio won the UK’s Stirling Prize twice.
Last year he retired from the studio, which was renamed Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2007, after 43 years.