The great architects and the “cotto”

Petra winery by Mario Botta

Built in 2003 by the will of Vittorio Moretti according to the design of Swiss architect Mario Botta, it uses an ancient material to decorate its interior spaces: “terracotta”.

When Vittorio Moretti asked me to design his winery, he showed me a sketch featuring a circle with two rectangular arms coming out of the sides. The final design was exactly the same. Sometimes, even those images that appear strange and mysterious at first glance stem from the meeting between a simple primary sign and memories of yesteryear that we suddenly recognize as a value that belongs to us.  Mario Botta

It is one of the most famous wine wineries in Italy, in architectural and aesthetic terms. Nestling on hills of Suvereto, in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma, Petra has become a landmark, an icon that narrates the relationship between man and his environment.

Composed by structural precast concrete panels, the floor is covered with terracotta tiles, belonging to the “externa” line by the Tuscan “Sannini Impruneta”, having 15×40 cm size and thickness of 5 cm.

“Externa” is a system of modular terracotta elements dedicated to the great Italian tradition, designed by arch. Franco Facchinelli e Alberto Grassi. Its color is pink, natural and very fine-grained, with mechanical properties comparable to the best stone materials such as granite.

The prefabricated panels were positioned on a bed of sand and gravel to ensure a natural, damp foundation for the wood casks, allowing movement by personnel and visitors between them along terracotta path.

This long tunnel penetrates the hill before stopping opposite a rocky wall which, erected right in the middle of the hill, becomes a meeting point or perhaps a place for reflection, far away from the technical production process which occupies the earlier rooms.

Stringent tests demonstrated that the transit of lift trucks did not damage or wear floor surfaces, thanks to the exceptional resistance of using products.

Processing clay of its own quarries, Sannini preserving the expertise acquired over centuries during the phases of clay grinding, extrusion and drying, which is finally concluded by a 72-hour firing. Every production cycle will therefore require several days to transform this particular clay into a high quality product, an authentic “Made in Italy” terracotta element.

Also, this application suggests that it could be potentially extended to road and pavements coverings, particularly when freeze-thaw resistance and rapid installation are priority considerations. Therefore, a versatile product, which has been renewed through the centuries to reach us in new forms and uses, without betray its natural origins.

Finally, still talking about the external, in the middle of the long front, the cellar presents a cylindrical volume 25 m high, externally coated in Prun stone (or Lessinia stone), calcareous marl with a pinkish color. It can be found in the the geographical area inscribed by the Alpine foothills of the province of Verona and, partially, in those of Vicenza and Trento (Italy).

by Fabrizio Aimar