monumental sculpture meets an exquisite architectural intervention

monumental sculpture meets an exquisite architectural intervention


amid the breathtaking landscapes and stunning scenes afforded by sonoma, california, one may find a significant history, nature-filled escapes, and fine wine. yet there is a cultural gem to unearth within this northern california land — a monumental, open-air sculpture collection and exquisite architectural intervention. the 200-acre estate belongs to donum, a producer of california pinot noir and chardonnay. the site is home to over 50 major works from artists from across the globe that form the donum collection. work by artists including ai weiwei, doug aitken, jaume plensa, elmgreen & dragset, and danh vo — to name a few — dot the extraordinary landscape, each piece playing with scale, nature, and imagination. ‘the works are placed in the landscape to complement and enrich the experience and the estate,’ mei and allan warburg, owners of the donum estate, tell designboom in an interview. ‘we don’t want to be seen as just a sculpture park within a wine estate, it is more about putting great things together and watching them grow and interweave with one another.’

donum estate
subodh gupta, people tree, 2017 | image by robert berg
(main image) elmgreen & dragset, the care of oneself, 2017 | image by gregory gorman

 

 

on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, donum tapped danish architect david thulstrup to re-configure and transform donum home — a space for wine tasting, dining, entertainment and art appreciation. originally built in 2017 and designed by MH architects, donum home draws on the california landscape, as well as thulstrup’s own heritage. ‘being scandinavian, I value simple and pared-back spaces that create a sense of calmness,’ thulstrup tells designboom. ‘for the re-imagination of donum home, it was especially important to enhance and support its essence through the application of honest materiality such as californian granite and american walnut. combined with the play of light, setting an unpretentious yet unforgettable mood was key in the overall design language.’ through simple and clear architectural gestures, and the use of local materials, thulstrup pays homage to californian authenticity. overall, in addition to the architectural transformation, a range of custom furniture pieces have been crafted to create a refined, yet relaxed atmosphere. the construction also gave the estate the chance to reflect and rehang part of the donum collection, and even introduce new works…

 

designboom spoke with mei and allan warburg, owners of the donum estate, and architect david thulstrup to learn more about working with a global community of artists, falling in love with light, and celebrating art, sustainable farming, and architecture. 

donum estate
ai weiwei, circle of animals zodiac heads, 2011 | image by robert berg

 

 

designboom (DB): what initially led the donum estate to begin collecting monumental sculpture, and why was it important to create an art viewing experience for visitors and guests?

 

mei warburg and allan warburg (MW + AW): we have been collecting for many years now. it started with getting to know the artists, which naturally led to owning their works and building a collection. collecting evolved into commissioning and with our ownership of donum in 2011, it felt like a natural merging of passions. it might seem unusual to place an art collection on a wine estate, but to us, it makes complete sense. a wine estate is special — it is a place not only for the production of wine, but also a landscape with its own personality and terroir. the works are placed in the landscape to complement and enrich the experience and the estate. we don’t want to be seen as just a sculpture park within a wine estate, it is more about putting great things together and watching them grow and interweave with one another.

donum estate
yue minjun, contemporary terracotta warriors, 2005 | image by robert berg

 

 

DB: with a roster of artists spanning generation and geography, is there a common thread that underpins the collection overall?

 

MW + AW: the donum collection is not an institutional encyclopaedic collection, but a personal labour of love that we hope our visitors find relatable, accessible, and inspiring. the artworks are within the landscape and respond to each element and seasons. there is no humidity or temperature control. once the works are placed, they are on their own to coexist with and within nature. we are an evolving collection of global community of artists, including works from leading practitioners from 18 nations.

donum estate
pascale marthine tayou, mikado tree, 2010 | image by robert berg

 

 

DB: for those who may not be familiar with the sonoma county area, can you briefly describe the scenic qualities of the local landscape, and how the artworks engage with the site?

 

MW + AW: the placement of art on donum involves a lot of thinking and land preparation. our projects are long term; we are committed patrons and have an evolving vision for our estate. we produce 8,000 cases of estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay a year, everything we do has to complement one another, from harvest to sustainable farming.

donum estate
pascale marthine tayou, mikado tree, 2010 | image by robert berg

 

 

MW + AW (continued): as we are based in hong kong, due to travel restrictions, we haven’t been able to visit for over a year now, we reminisce to days on donum. in the late afternoon, when the sun starts its descent on the rolling sonoma vineyards, we’d love to take a seat up at the lake house. from there, one can see a few works from the art collection, with views of the sonoma mountains and san francisco bay as the backdrop. it’s a moment to be mindful of the ‘gift of the land’ (the latin meaning of donum) and the gift of collaboration with all our artists. as the carneros terroir blows through the eucalyptus grove, we hear doug [aitken’s] sonic mountain, a giant wind chime, sound its characteristic chords. of course, all this while drinking a glass of our pinot noir. this is the most magical hour — when all these elements come together on donum.



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