Last week's opening of the redesigned Santa Monica Place, a 1980 design by Frank Gehry that was completely revamped by a Dallas-based architecture firm to feature a rooftop food court, prompted Squid Ink to check in on the completion date of the new Gehry-designed wine making facility at Hall Winery in St. Helena. One Gehry building may be gone forever, but at least there always seems to be another one right around the corner. Or so we thought.
According to the winery's publicist, which we reached by email, the six+ year, all-consuming project (at least judging by past press releases) has been temporarily ditched for another.
“There has actually been some re-juggling of the many projects Hall has been working on in the past few years. As Hall has a strong commitment and respect for the Napa Valley environment and land, most of their efforts have been focused on their recent LEED and organic certifications. As such, the Frank Gehry project is currently on hold and at this time they do not have a date set for when the project will start back up.”
That may be a no-blinker with some folks, but for the Halls, who have accumulated one of the more interesting art collections in the Southwest (their primary residence is in Dallas), it is somewhat curious. “Art is a part of our life, and so any and every space we have has wonderful art, it's so integral to our lives and the winery,” Kathryn Hall told us in an interview shortly after the Gehry building broke ground. “Art is a metaphor for the experience of wine, and wine too is one of the oldest businesses in the world, full of tradition in how it is made, tradition and technology. As we work on the new [Gehry] facility in St. Helena, the whole idea is that it's an experience, an inspiration of great wine and great art.”
And so why a project by one of the most important, innovative architects of our century would been halted by a couple like the Halls, we can't speculate. Or perhaps it wasn't the Halls, but the architect, or good old community backlash. Per The New York Times, “when the proposal was first made to Napa County in 2004 [for the Gehry structure], local residents voiced concerns that Mr. Gehry would put up a large titanium building that would draw scores of gawkers to the area's already crowded roads.” Or perhaps times have simply changed.
What we do know: after several years of sorting through county permit hurdles, the $100-million facility was green lighted with much fanfare at the groundbreaking three years ago, with plans for an early 2010 opening (later pushed back to 2011). Unlike Gehry's original Santa Monica mall, the winery facility design has that now-distinct Gehry style of towering, undulating walls. Only here, with a trellis-like roof made to resemble wood rather than the polished titanium Disney Hall-type surfaces now equated with his name (though notably, not his typical medium).
But since then, even on the Hall website, where the impressive building prototype was once featured prominently on the front page, the plans are now quietly buried beneath the winery's recent LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification.
LEED certification is also what Macerich, the developer behind the redesigned Santa Monica Place mall, cited as a pivotal focus for their redesign.
All admirable. But whatever happened to environmental — and if so desired, edible (or even drinkable) — art?