There are grander and more expensive cellar doors in the world, but for sheer originality and invention South Australia’s newly-opened d’Arenberg Cube is unrivalled.
For leading Australian winemaker Chester Osborn, pictured below, it’s the realisation of a 14-year dream, but for the McLaren Vale wine region 40km south of the South Australian capital of Adelaide, the Cube could bring tens if not hundreds of thousands more wine tourists to visit one of the world’s most unusual and dramatic cellar doors.
The five storey AUD$15 million glass-encased steel and concrete structure was inspired by Rubik’s Cube – an architectural puzzle four modules wide, four high – seeming to float above the entrance ground floor, and four deep. The architectural twist is that the two top floors are askew, rotated on their axis, just as if you’d twisted your Rubik’s Cube – which both architects and builders agree have made it the most difficult project on which they’ve ever worked.
As visitors approach the entrance there’s a haunting background sound, created by a local DJ but the instrument making it is a weather station. As the weather changes each of eight parameters (temperature, humidity and so on) talk to a unique musical playback system along a range of keys, tones and volume.
But it’s inside the d’Arenberg Cube where Chester’s colourful imagination has run riot, stretching the limits of technology and challenging visitors from the moment they enter through mirrored stainless steel doors that fold back, origami-style.
Immediately guests are confronted by an upended black and white bull cradling a polygraph (lie detector) control panel, the first exhibit in what Chester describes as an Alternate Realities Museum in which everything has more than one meaning, and everything is wine focussed.
“I never wanted it to be compared to MONA (Hobart’s famous Museum of Old and New Art),” Chester says.
“This is, after all, a cellar door – but it’s also an art gallery. Like MONA there’s a bit of sex and death in here, but it’s really all about wine and alternate realities. Everything has a double or triple meaning.”