Mendoza's "Recycled" Winery — Argentine Eco Architecture With A Splash
Architects in Mendoza, western Argentina, have used hundreds of tons of recycled building material, shipping containers and discarded decorations to create an otherwise high-tech winery.
MENDOZA — Winemaking and wine tourism installations are usually built with a tasteful nod at the landscape around them. In the case of the MAAL winery in western Argentina, its environment-friendly design includes use of 300 tons of discarded construction and decoration materials found in and around the district of Mendoza.
Local architects Mora Hughes wanted to make the project a badge of their "commitment to nature," but with all the "charm of a Mendoza winery." MAAL winery is in Las Compuertas, on the outskirts of the city of Mendoza and at the heart of a celebrated winemaking region.
Their design won a bronze medal in the Architecture and Landscapes category at the 2023 Best of Mendoza's Wine Tourism awards. MAAL is an acronym of the owners' names, Matías and Alfredo, though they insist it also means Malbec As Alfredo Likes. The label only uses its own Malbec grapes and only "the way Alfredo likes it."
First moments of Maalwines' recycled winery
The winery sits on a narrow strip and is effectively a rectangular tube, with the produce introduced at one end, and passed along and processed to end up as wine in barrels at the other. Fermentation and storage happen in small concrete tanks holding between 50 and 200 hectoliters, and stainless steel vats and barrels with capacity ranging from 225 to 500 liters. The winery produces some 200,000 bottles a year, sold in eight countries including Argentina.
They used bits of flooring or roofing from wineries facing demolition, pipe segments and 20 disused shipping containers.
Wanting to minimize construction emissions, the architects decided to reuse local construction elements, including bits of flooring or roofing from defunct wineries facing demolition, pipe segments and 20 disused shipping containers. They brought in items like postal service furniture, church pews, old tractor seats, aluminum roof paneling from a local hotel, the Aconcagua, and even an old minibus still waiting to find its use. These were neatly laid out by the building site before work began.
This proliferation of recovered material prompted challenges, requiring flexibility and adaptation during construction, which meant intermittent delays. The design evolved and with the containers at least, the architects seemed at times to toy with options like kids playing with giant Lego bricks. These have ended up as a wall around the central structure, serving variously as offices, labs, storage or tasting rooms.
The winery's surfaces have kept a rough finishing that says something of their previous lives as bits of other buildings. The shipping containers were cleaned, but without wiping away their original colors, wooden beams and paneling are neatly cut but were not sanded down too much nor repainted or varnished, keeping thus their original tones. Much of the furniture is recycled or made from hard-plastic fruit crates.
The building also maximizes access to sunlight and natural air currents, through ample light shafts and air corridors that can be regulated to adjust airflow and temperatures. The only new things it seems are the winery's top-end equipment.
Mora Hughes, a studio run by Eugenia Mora and Tom Hughes, have undertaken a range of design projects around Mendoza including the Zuccardi winery and its restaurant Piedra Infinita, the Cavas Wine Lodge and private homes.
Wine tasting during the Maalwine trash recycled winery tour
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