Location Kurtatsch, South Tyrol, Italy    Architect dell'angolo kelderer Architekten    Finished 2017    Cost ca. 6,5 Mio €

In the sweeping Southern Tyrol alpine region of Kurtatsch, an architectural marvel juts up, seemingly a part of the earth’s crust itself. For over 120 years, Kellerei Kurtatsch has been part of this fragile yet demanding landscape. When dell’agnolo kelderer Architects was commissioned to expand the winery — and in turn — I picked up my camera to photograph the project, it was imperative to translate the way Kellerei Kurtatsch was part of both the culture of the surrounding historic alp architecture, and entwined with the terroir.

To photograph the new mountain-like dolomite facade of the salesroom in conjunction with the existing architecture and the landscape it is tethered to, I had to employ a series of techniques to portray the mood and inviting atmosphere of the winery and the relationship between the structure and its location. The exacting terrain and complex perspectives demanded my abilities as a drone pilot for aerial footage. Photographing the winery itself during normal operating hours required patience, logistics, and sensitivity. Knowledge of lighting, visual hierarchy, and colorwork were essential to making seductive images of the dim and moody cellar.

The result is a series of images that gives a sense of place and tells the beautiful and rare story of 190 family businesses collectively operating as one winery, dedicated to the materials, light, weather, harvest, and hospitality of the land.

A Perfect Example of Modern Alpine Architecture

Our legs still ached from the long descent from the Neue Schwarzensteinhütte when my assistant Marcus and I set off for our next architecture shoot for the Modern Alpine Architecture series in the early afternoon. Embedded in the seemingly endless rows of orchards and vines, half on the slope of the Adige Valley, lies the Kurtatsch winery. From the East we approached the inconspicuous old building of the winery, which gives no indication of its architectural transformation on the west facade of the building. The stone concrete facade rises like a mountain from the visitor parking lot into the warm summer air. It was this perspective that immediately cast a spell on me. The hard straight edges remind me of my favorite climbing walls in the nearby Dolomites: Majestic, natural, and powerful.

The stone concrete facade in the form of a mountain massif had me enchanted.

Photographing Kellerei Kurtatsch’s Complex Exterior

To accentuate the rigid and graphic exterior, I timed the shoot so that I was able to harness the hard sunlight to make clearly defined shadows. This bold interplay of light and darkness helped carve out the angular shapes and show the depth of the staggered mountain-like projections.

The connection between the vines and the winery is evident in every picture and thus strengthens the architect’s conceptual claim to include nature in the building.

During the design process, dell’agnolo kelderer Architects had carefully considered that the majority of the facade must be kept simple and tasteful so as not to distract from the historic regional architecture and charm. It was important for the photographs to show the relationship between the winery and the local buildings and land. Aerial drone photos give us the perfect perspective to note the ratio of building to space. We are placed in the landscape and can comprehend the entire area in one image. This view showcases the Adige Valley and allows us to bypass the trees, houses, and streets that made this vantage point impossible from the ground.

The drone images help translate the way the traditional roof melds seamlessly with both the surrounding structures and the new architecture. They are lit directionally to emphasize the shapes and geometry of the facade. The long shadows here match with the “ground level” exterior photographs of the facade.

Photographing The Winery's Hospitable Interior

As we walk through the portal of folded concrete slabs and onto the veranda, the mood changes entirely. Warm wood envelops us. Generous, unbroken lines of sight give us sweeping views of the valley and alps beyond. The winery sales area is framed with large, individually manufactured glass elements. They seem to make the border between inside and outside disappear and invite you to explore the building further. Protected from the burning summer sun, we enjoy the light breeze that comes from the porch opening on the valley side. Despite the airy ceiling height and the many glass elements, there is a feeling of safety and shelter. As if from a protective cave, I look through the many openings in the concrete facade, which from the outside could not be distinguished from the shadows, the stone formations. 

By creating compositions that showcase the massive amount of glazing, I was able to hint at the way the winery offers endless views of the outdoors. We see how light finds its way through every opening, no matter how thin. It plays across the windows and pours warmth across the many wooden elements. By embracing the reflective quality of the glass to hint at the beautiful facade, even when it wasn’t the obvious subject of the photographs. The mixture of playful directional light, and inviting tones creates an inviting air that draws us into the Kellerei Kurtatsch and allows us to envision what it is like to dwell there.

Embracing Mood In The Wine Cellar

Moving down into the rock cellar, we get to explore dell’agnolo kelderer Architects’ sustainable design and the carefully considered textures and materials that were chosen to unite the structure and its surroundings. Architect Egon Kelderer explains “we have used the basic geological formations of the rock walls to design the rooms. On one hand, this saves resources and minimizes interference with natural structures. On the other hand, as part of the architecture, the rock wall also creates a connection to the natural process of wine production. After all, many of the minerals in the soil and rock can also be found in the wines of the winery.”

Moderne Architektur Alpen, Modern Alpine Architecture, Modern Alpine Design, Berge, Mountains, Contemporary, Außergewöhnliche Gebäude, Architekturfotografie Österreich, Deutschland, Italien, Schweiz, Architekturfotograf für Interieur, Exterieur Werbefotografie und Filmproduktionen

Photographing the cellar presented a challenge. The absence of natural light and scarcely placed practical lights created a dim environment that was gorgeous and dripping with mood in real life, but not so easy to capture in camera. The great disparity in exposure between the black ceiling and the illuminated concrete elements created an abundance of contrast and inaccurate colors that I had to carefully attend to. Through targeted local brightness adjustments, I can lead the viewer through my image processing to the focal point of the image, the stairs. It is the brightest point and has the most structure. With the right concept, image processing becomes an integral part of architectural photography.

Kellerei Kurtatsch and Tyrol at Twilight

In architectural photography, twilight photographs are often the hero shots. Being present photographing Kellerei Kurtatsch at dusk, it is easy to see why. With the hard sunlight from the day gone, new shadows emerge across the mountain-like facade. The warm yellow light draws our eyes in and contrasts perfectly with the dusky blue sky over Tyrol. In the background, we catch a glimpse of the inky purple mountains. The modern design of the facade creates a lovely rhythm that bounces our eyes through the frames, resting on the horizon in the background.

Aglow with light, the veranda appears as a warm beacon against the night sky. The alternating triangles of warm and cool colors help accentuate the peak-inspired design that encases this wine drinking haven. There is an inviting and intimate feeling here that works perfectly with the location.

As we step through onto the veranda again, this time in the evening, we are greeted with another fantastic view of the Adige Valley. It was important to me to capture as much of the mood of this space as possible. There is a feeling of warmth from the glow of the practical lights among the coolness of the sky. Again, we see the same shapes and the presence of the facade reflected in the glazing as we did during the day. This ties the whole shoot together, and gives a feeling of continuity throughout the project.

An Architectural Sculpture of the Alps

As someone with a passion for architecture, photography, and alpine lifestyle sports like climbing and hiking, this project holds a piece of my heart. Not only does the winery reflect and honor the natural world — and culture — surrounding it, but it stands as a shrine to the great feats of architecture and engineering. Amazingly, such a complicated and beautiful structure can exist respectfully in this harsh yet fragile landscape. Kellerei Kurtatsch’s modern architecture amid the rugged terrain of Tyrol makes it a modern sculpture of the alps.



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Canon EOS R

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
Canon RF 24-105MM F4L IS USM

Feisol CT-3441T Rapid

Capture One 21, Adobe Photoshop CC

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    Project Series: Modern Alpine Architecture
    Style: Architectural Photography
    Building: Kellerei Kurtatsch
    Location: Kurtatsch, South Tyrol, Italy