March 20, 2013

Rack Up The Creativity Points: Furch Gestaltung Reinvents the Wine Rack

No wonder there was a problem with theft at Weinhandlung Kreis, a wine shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Displaying bottles upstairs while storing them downstairs often meant no eye on the door. (Not to mention a lot of legwork fetching the goods.) Then the owner, Bernd Kreis, landed a coveted storefront in a travertine-clad 1950’s building across from the Altes Schloss—a castle hailing from the 10th century, when Stuttgart drew more breeders of horses than connoisseurs of the best local Riesling or French cabernet franc.

Among other perks ideal for wine, easily damaged by direct sunlight, the storefront’s windows were shaded by an arcade—with a mosaic ceiling, to boot. Less ideal, the space was again divided between ground level and basement. But Kreis swore, this time, storage would not be confined to the cellar or even a separate room. “That was our starting point,” Furch Gestaltung + Produktion design architect Philipp Dittus says.

For Dittus and Matthias Furch, who had designed the tasting room at another Weinhandlung Kreis location, the other major concern was capacity. The 750-square-foot new space would have to contain not only a tasting room but also three rooms capable of storing and selling 1,200 types of wine, strictly European vintages. “The Interior was so tiny—we were a bit upset when we first saw it,” Furch admits. And that was before Kreis said, “OK, fit in 12,000 bottles of wine.”

Space-hogging traditional oak shelving was consequently ruled out. “We quickly realized that all those bottles didn’t leave us much interior. It would have to be pure wine, only wine,” Furch explains. “So we came up with this very fine wire frame.” The 20-inch-square modules allow four types of bottles to be stowed while stacking all the way up to the ceilings, now exposed. Staff use a library-style rolling ladder to reach the highest bottles.

The wire modules are powder-coated 21 colors in a rainbow palette that stands out against flooring in off-white epoxy and walls and ceilings in porous black lime plaster. “Upstairs modules are yellow, reddish. Downstairs is more purple, bluish,” Dittus says. To direct customers to a requested wine, staffers indicate a rack color—an imprecise method likely to require searching, hence more sales.

Modules were prefabricated, then screwed together on location with bent steel connectors. “In our naïve imagination, we pictured a crazy welder moving into the shop for a month and welding the heck out of it,” Furch notes. “But the system needed to be very precise, with bottles aligned perfectly underneath one another. Only robots could do this.” The final step was to fit the front of most modules with small stainless-steel shelves to display upright bottles, labels facing out to indicate what’s stored behind.

Storing gives way to pouring in the tasting room, where customers can either stand at the bar or sit on a wrap-around window seat. Sheathing the seat is black rubber more commonly used as flooring. “It’s  more durable than leather and feels nice and soft,” Furch says. It also muffles sound and reduces breakage.

In lieu of tables for resting the wine glasses, trays likewise wrapped in black rubber slide back and forth along the window seat. They’re guided by two rails that simultaneously supply electrical current to the small white table lamp screwed to each tray—a cordless setup that allows for maximum flexibility. “You can move the trays around and take them away,” Dittus says. And if you touch the rails? “The voltage is so low. Nothing happens,” Furch says. “You can even put your tongue on it.” He checked.

Project Team:
Thomas Seeger-Furch; Markus Wolmann; Fabian Jung: Furch Gestaltung + Produktion. Steffen Kammerer: Lighting Consultant. Victor Wilhelm: Structural Engineer. P. Henne: MEP. Peter Rückle: Plasterwork. S. Alencic: Flooring Contractor.

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