Redevelopment of 16th-century Chinese Wenjun distillery for Moët Hennessey.
Sector: Industrial / Winery / Distillery
Client: Moet Hennessey Asia Pacific
Services: Master Planning; Architecture; Interior Design
Size: 12 hectare
“The Wen Jun Distillery in the Sichuan Province of China, was purchased by Moët Hennessy Asia Pacific in 2008 and dates back to the early 16th Century. Legend tells it is named after Zhou Wen Jun, a famed Han Dynasty Heiress who, as a young widow, notoriously eloped with the poet Sima Xiang Ma.
There are few projects which entwine such a romantic story, rich culture, exclusive brand and the manufacture of baijiu (a Chinese grain spirit). MAP relished the challenge, embraced the brief, conducted mountains of research and came back with the winning feasibility study and architectural design for the redevelopment of the 12 hectare site.
There are three phases to the project: development of an administrative precinct; construction of a visitor centre and VIP guest house; master plan for the site manufacturing and logistical areas. The first two phases are complete and the third is underway.
The administrative precinct is at the centre of the site, accommodating an office building and visitor centre. The office was designed as a simple, elegant structure with ‘V’ columns at ground level supporting two floating office floors which are pierced by a central atrium and large oval skylight. The ground floor has a lecture theatre at one end and a lounge-bar area at the other, which opens up onto a timber deck and provides views of the precinct and superbly landscaped grounds.
A large water feature and statute of Wen Jun is the focal point of the landscape designs. Diamond-shaped stepping stones cross the water, mirroring the arrangement of the distillery’s fermentation pits.
The Visitor Centre was designed in the style of a traditional distillery building with a Chinese grey-tiled roof and decorated timber bargeboards and brackets. The walls were built using the local grey bricks, which have beautiful hues due to the temperature variations of the kilns. The first floor accommodates a VIP tasting room opening up on to a large terrace. From here guests can follow a covered walkway to a viewing platform where they can take in the aroma and sights of the working distillery.
A new boilerhouse was designed in traditional style, creating an art-gallery like environment for state-of-the-art gas-fired boilers – quite a contrast to the scary old coal-fired boilers of before.
The northern arm of the site is a VIP guest-house complex with its own access road. Designed as a walled precinct, it incorporates a gatehouse, two large villas, a presidential villa, and a VIP visitor centre with a lounge, bar, dining room, and music pavilion. All the building are designed in traditional Sichuan style, with grey brick and tiles contrasted by red local sandstone garden walls. Traditional watercourses, similar to those that feed the main water supply to the local villages, flank the external walls of the villas. Next to the entrance of each villa is a small waterfall to welcome guests with the sound of flowing water.
Baijiu is a traditional Chinese clear spirit which has been made for over 5000 years. According to data from International Wine & Spirit Research, Chinese people drank over 11 billion litres of baijiu in 2012; accounting for more than one-third of all spirits consumed in the world, and making it the most popular spirit on Earth.”