The fundamental tenet behind Javier Barba’s architecture is that the land speaks. While one can touch and feel soil, a rock, tree or pond, it’s what the land says—or doesn’t say—that guides Spain’s foremost “green” architect.
Born into a family headed by a successful architect/developer, Barba, a native Barceloní, runs a nine-person studio. It has designed critically acclaimed, form-meets-function homes, hotels, apartment complexes and sports facilities in more than a dozen countries, including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Mexico and the U.S.
Also prominent in the portfolio of BC Estudio Architects, which Barba founded in the 1980s, are a pair of winery projects commissioned by two of the wine world’s biggest names.
In 1999, the firm designed a new winery for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and its renowned founder Warren Winiarski. After Winiarski sold his benchmark Napa winery to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Italy’s Piero Antinori in 2007, the new owners hired Barba’s team to design a stylized visitors center, which was unveiled in 2014.
“I’m a wine drinker, not a taster. I like wines made by people, not companies.”
In Spain, Barba and his team, which includes sons Gabriel and Jordi, redesigned an industrial winery in Rioja that Miguel Torres S.A. had acquired. That project, which concluded in 2009, centered on converting what Barba called an “ugly and intrusive” box-like structure into something more in tune with the Riojano countryside.
“When I first saw the building, I said to Miguel [Torres], ‘You need David Copperfield to make this disappear,’ ” says Barba, 67. “Ultimately, we were able to take what was a dull building and transform it using natural materials like concrete and plaster.”
At the same time, Barba designed the Waltraud Cellar at Torres’s main winery in Vilafranca del Penedès, where its top wines are aged.
“We would love to do more wineries,” says Barba. “We are talking to people in Argentina. Hopefully, there will be more wineries, maybe in Greece.”
To date, the Torres and Stag’s Leap projects are the only bodega jobs his firm has undertaken.
A moderate wine aficionado who owns 2,500 or so olive trees at his country home that overlooks the Ebro River Delta near Tarragona, Barba claims to be “a wine drinker, not a taster. I like wines made by people, not companies. Plus, I have had the best teacher in Warren [Winiarski].”