Moments in Peru’s Sacred Valley

North of Cusco we stopped in the town of Chincheros to admire handwoven textiles from Quechua stallholders, who proudly preserve the Inca tradition.


We travelled through the gorgeous plateau of the Andean farmlands towards the Sacred Valley. We wound our way to the ancient salt terraces of Maras, marveling over the thousands of crystallizing ponds harvested since Inca times.

Then we visited the agricultural amphitheatre of Moray – three large terraced circles carved into the Andean mountains, thought to have been used as experimentation sites for Incan crops. Then we worked our way down into the Valley to visit the original Incan village of Ollantaytambo.


My next series of photos are from a visit to Peru during la Semana Santa (Holy Week). We followed solemn religious processions in Cusco; toured the towns and archaeological sites of the Sacred Valley; explored the historic ruins of Machu Picchu; and, visited the vibrant capital city, Lima.

A Home, A Stage for Telling Tales

The latest issue of Wallpaper* looks at prime lumber retreats across three continents. I got to write about a suburban retreat in Canada’s Atlantic province of New Brunswick. The December 2017 article is copied here. (Photos by Julian Parkinson)

Nestled in a wooded lot, this new home by Acre Architects brings a contemporary edge to the suburbs of Saint John, New Brunswick. The conservative maritime setting has few contemporary design precedents, allowing the locally-based firm the freedom to explore new directions. Driven to design structures that ‘inspire people to live great stories’, partners Monica Adair and Stephen Kopp worked with the homeowners, a young, growing, musically inclined family of five who most value social interaction and connecting with the outdoors, to create a house that would best reflect their personality and lifestyle.

The house is clad in silvery cedar shingles that recall the local vernacular, but with a distinct cubic form and tapered roof that set it apart from the town’s Victorian context. It is linked by a wood trellis to a garage, whose discreet rooftop terrace provides 360˚views of the treeline. Floor-to-ceiling glazing along the building’s southern elevation extends the open living/dining/kitchen area to the outdoors. Sight lines in, out and throughout the home allow parents and children to stay connected.

A raised area, which can be used as a stage for impromptu performances, is capped by a dramatic lightwell rising the full height of the house. Spaces expand and contract as occupants move across the 11ft-high living areas and then up into the private quarters. Tucked behind a wall, the stairwell’s slow gradient transitions from dark oak floors up to white maple. Sunlight cascades through the well, bouncing across the white surfaces, changing by day and by season.

The material palette is restrained. Local artisans have been commissioned to create pieces such as the steel handrail and glazed clay kitchen tiles, but there are also playful, unexpected notes, such as a concealed door revealing Superman-blue painted stairs leading down to the playroom.

Acre Architects featured in Wallpaper’s* Architects’ Directory 2016. Its growing portfolio of awards confirms that small projects can have great impact. This space takes on the family’s identity: playful and social while acknowledging local rootedness and tradition. The unconventional, unconstrained floor plan choreographs the life the family wants to live. Of its ‘storied architecture’, ‘the house finds a way not to blend in, but to pay homage to what is there and move forward, to think about the future of architecture for families,’ says Adair.

Photos by Julian Parkinson.

Topography, gravity and a Corten-clad design by Tom Kundig at an award-winning new winery

My debut in Wallpaper* features a remarkable new gravity-flow winery in British Columbia. The July 2017 article is copied here.

Tucked into a steep hillside in Kelowna, British Columbia, is the striking glass, steel and concrete structure of Martin’s Lane Winery, the producer of award-winning Pinot Noir and Riesling wines that draw discerning enthusiasts worldwide. A ‘gravityflow’ winery (designed on different levels to allow wine to flow, rather than be pumped, from one stage of the production process to the next, gently extracting colour, flavour and tannin from the grape skins), the project is testament to proprietor Anthony von Mandl’s commitment to the local Okanagan region, hailed as the next Napa Valley.

Martin’s Lane is von Mandl’s latest venture with architect Tom Kundig of Seattle practice Olson Kundig. The pair’s first collaboration delivered the nearby Mission Hill Winery, which opened some 20 years ago and was instrumental in putting the region on the vinicultural map. The pair have established a trust and understanding, allowing Kundig the freedom to come with the adventurous design of Martin’s Lane. The new building is a showcase for agility, quality, and craftsmanship. Kundig’s inspired initial sketch, penned in February 2014, was immediately green-lit and led to fast-track production schedule. The winery’s inaugural vintage – a 2014 Pinot Noir, awarded an unprecedented (for a debut) 97 points by leading wine expert Steven Spurrier – was produced while the building was still under construction.

Completed in summer 2016, the understated building veers from Mission Hill’s imposing, monastic scale with a more internalised, rational approach. It reads as a simple rectangular form split between a large production area, which follows the contours of the sloping site, and a smaller visitor area, which follows the horizon and overhangs the vineyard. The seam between the two areas is filled with clerestory windows that draw daylight into the layered interior. ‘There’s a real push and pull to how the winemaker sees this building functioning, the type of wine and style it is making, and how it fits into the slope,’ says Kundig of the need to strike a balance between the design intent, functional requirements, and environmental fit.

Designed as a series of tiers, Martin’s Lane tells the story of the gravity-flow winemaking process. The production stages step down the hillside, with grape-receiving and crushing areas at the top; fermentation and settling rooms; the bottling room; and finally, the barrel storage area, encased within the hillside. The earth provides ideal, stable temperatures and humidity without the need for conventional heating or cooling systems. The gravity-flow method is ideal for less forgiving, thin-skinned grapes. It is also inherently efficient: from grape to bottle in five movements, eschewing pumps and added yeasts in order to capture the absolute natural expression of the terroir. While gravity does the work, innovative technologies bring flexibility. Most of the tanks can be moved and replaced as needs change, and each can be monitored remotely.

Visitors enter the winery through a tunnel and then emerge into a naturally lit hall. The building, like the wine, doesn’t give away everything at once. Little surprises and new experiences greet you as you round a corner, follow an underground passage or a raised pathway, or simply open a door. Descend into a rough board-formed concrete barrel-cellar for an immersive sensory experience. Survey the vast cellar from a glass-enclosed private tasting room. Delve deeper into the earth towards an events space with a floor of exquisite glass mosaic tiles. A freestanding spiral staircase, designed following the Fibonacci sequence to mimic vine growth, leads back to the surface. Here, one is offered glimpses inwards back into the production area, and outwards onto a cantilevered deck with views of the valley and Okanagan Lake.

Building materials are both tough and flexible. The armature is obsidian-painted structural steel. The skin and roofing is a corrugated, weathering Corten – a nod to the area’s agricultural heritage. Sustainability is driven by the desire for authenticity and simplicity. Not only does Martin’s Lane minimise energy consumption by using the earth as a heat sink, its topographical placement and orientation helps funnel cool lake air through the building, providing natural ventilation. Completing the earth, wind, water trinity, rain collected on the split roof is diverted to an organic garden and animal habitat down the hill.

Kundig is a nimble architect who appears unconstrained by ego, able to work effortlessly with numerous collaborators. He and von Mandl worked hard to assemble a team of local artisans and international designers. A local racecar builder contributed to the engineering of a 33ft sliding window, which is operated by a chain-driven handwheel. Catalan architect Antoni Puig fashioned sets of motorised 1,200lb doors that incorporate a fold echoing the seam through the building. The massive doors open silently and gently, while their blackened steel surface recalls a devastating fire that still scars the nearby trees.

Ultimately, the building is an expression of von Mandl’s exacting standards and dedication to the Okanagan soil. It is also a study in contrast and collaboration. Its compressed design schedule seems at odds with the staid, centuries-old gravity process. Yet Kundig’s design has an air and poise that ensures visitors’ senses are appropriately focused on the wine. The structure impressed onto the striking hillside does not impose. Its edited architecture slowly reveals itself, and allows interpretation and discovery. ‘Like wine, the more nuance you can build into a building the more you can appreciate it over time,’ says Kundig.

As originally featured in the July 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*220).         Photos by Nic Lehoux.

Momentos en Montevideo (Uruguay)