terroir – architecture as wine

November 27, 2012

Throughout the ‘dankness’ of his text, Gissen explores the reconceptualisation of the dankness of architecture, by questioning how it may still haunt space and impact new pleasures in contemporary concepts of dwelling and home. Resisting the historically pejorative concept of ‘dankness’ he shows the underground as an embraceable zone of expression that actually contains qualities relative to specific local materials or regions – an endemic architecture or a terroir.

Loosely translatable as ‘a sense of place’ terroir is the sum of the effects created by the geography, geology and climate of a certain place. Most commonly used in the description of wine, terroir is a geographical identity comprised of human and natural factors.

As architecture and the environment are produced simultaneously, I would like to suggest that by employing the concept of terroir, an endemic architecture can be said to embody and represent a sum of the location. Just as a well balanced tasteful wine can call upon its terroir to demand a higher price, taste, worth and popularity, should not an architecture that considers the soil, and is shown to grow from the land receive a similar esteem as well?

However, architecture possesses on secret deceptive side, that is unlike wine it has an ability to feign its terroir. While wine – and any organic non-modified product must capture the history of its terroir – the soil, the story of the farmer who produced it and ultimately the quality of the product – architecture can be conceived far from the land, disconnected from place as pixels on a screen, with little thought being given to the soil upon which it stands or the earth worms that crawl beneath it.

If a good wine can be the celebration of a certain place, why can’t architecture create the same esteem in marriage with its terroir?



– Jordan Lane

David Gissen, ‘Part One: Atmosphere’, in Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.


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