So, what is Starchitecture? A few years ago, some new architectural ventures started mushrooming in this area, which was till then famous only for its viticulture. The promise of good wine and an insight into the art of winemaking brought tourists to the area, and once tourism began to flourish, so did the interest of architects. The construction industry thus boomed in keeping pace with the newfound growth potential.

The noteworthy feature in this game of architectural one upmanship is that the Spaniards like to preserve their traditions while embracing modern designs. This fusion has provided designs so startlingly unique that tourists now flock to La Rioja not just for the wine, but for a glimpse of the architecture! Rioja is in Northern Spain, about a three-hour drive from Barcelona. One first notices the Romanesque churches, which blend in with the wine and gives a distinct aura of tradition.  However, if one is booked at Hotel Marquis de Risal, designed by Frank Gehry, on reaching there, one’s eyes are bound to pop out. The hotel is designed to resemble the top of a wine bottle. This structure is a composite of pink, silver, gold, rumpled titanium, and steel panels. It has 43 luxury suites, and they overlook the medieval town of Elciego, which is part of a historical winery. The hotel houses a cooking school, a “Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa,” and a Michelin-starred restaurant. It is ranked among the resorts, which holds pride of place as a luxury property.
This hotel is by no means unique, or is it a stray example of wine and architecture being a dual tourist draw. A mere ten-minute drive will get you to LaGuardia and the Bodegas Ysios. This long low structure was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It has a pleated aluminium roof, and appears to merge into the Sierra de Cantabria mountains! This design is not as jarring as the pink one Gehry has put up; the goal that the architect has attempted to achieve is to gel with nature.

Another design of this type of clean modern architecture is a French architect’s Bodega Vin`a Real, in the Logrono region. This uses Concrete, Stainless Steel, and Canadian Red Cedar in its construction, and is also built by the side of a mountain. Essentially, it strives to portray an extreme rugged simplicity, and not only succeeds in this attempt but ends up being very elegant. The wine country is fast filling up with these modern structures, which provide the ultimate in comfort and elegance, while blending in with the traditions of the surroundings.
Mala Ashok

Summit to focus  on eco-cities

Plans are underway to ensure that the 2010 World energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, will be even more successful than WFES 2009.The main themes of the summit, from January 18 to 21, will be centred on the concept of ‘eco-cities’ and the issues surrounding technology transfer. The new eco-cities being planned in various parts of the globe include Treasure Island in the United States, Dong Tang in China, and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi itself.
Achal Narayanan