A hedonist playground

A winery by Vincent Van Duysen

Winemaking, architecture, and nature join forces to form an epicurean escape from reality at Valke Vleug, a cool climate wine estate in Belgium founded by entrepreneur Jan Van Lancker and designed by architect Vincent Van Duysen.

In the flat Belgian countryside between Brussels and Antwerp, the Valke Vleug winery can be found tucked away from the road, surrounded by silence and nature. To some, it might come as a surprise that wine is produced in Belgium, but viniculture has a long history in the country, particularly thriving between the 9th and 16th centuries. Today Belgium has around 20 wineries.

Valke Vleug is the vision of two people – entrepreneur and owner Jan Van Lancker and architect Vincent Van Duysen. The creative partnership was born when Van Lancker approached Van Duysen with a carte blanche to design the new winery. With his background in real estate and development, Van Lancker was already familiar with Van Duysen’s work, and knew the architect would respect the natural location, without building anything too ‘dramatic’. So after listing the requirements for making wine, “the rest was up to Van Duysen and his imagination,” says Van Lancker.

Van Duysen was intrigued by the unique nature of the brief: “When you look at wineries in other parts of the world, the landscapes are totally different. Here, the land is flat with trees – a typical Flemish landscape. My vision is always to show respect to the environment, and with this project we pay homage to the local agricultural building typology.”

The architectural plan of Valke Vleug is based on a typical 19th century farm with a central courtyard surrounded by four wings. The main building, a long horizontal barn with a cantilevering gable roof, stretches out beyond an entrance courtyard. Half of the barn is occupied by vinification, while the other half is dedicated to pleasure, with indoor and outdoor spaces for tasting and enjoying wine.

The design is a balancing act between architecture and nature, compression and release, lightness and weight. To the right of the courtyard, thick concrete walls create a sense of enclosure in the flat landscape. On the left side of the courtyard a 10-metre-tall box rises up like an outpost overlooking the flat landscape. “We needed to create some contrasts – the horizontal versus the vertical,” says Van Duysen.