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The Art Cave

New York-based architects Bade Stageberg Cox were commissioned in 2005 to design the Art Cave, a 5,750-square-foot space for exhibiting art from the Stone collection. While the cave echoes the architectural typology of wine caves typical throughout Napa Valley, there is nothing else like it in the world as a space to display art. The inherently curvaceous geometry of the cave is exploited to create a space lacking the familiar architectural cues of corner, edge and detail. The intersections of tunnel vaults and the sculpted light pockets washing the interior surfaces with light create a seemingly boundless space. One’s encounter with art occurs in a context unencumbered by traditional functions or associations.

Steel entry portals incised into the hillside articulate the cave’s presence. In contrast to the farmhouse, which is a symbol of the domestication of the landscape, the cave’s condition as architecture is ambiguous: its scale and form are indeterminate. The portals, serving as the transition between landscape and cave, are sculptural and abstract. The design of the art cave takes advantage of tunneling construction techniques, developed for the wine industry, which allow for the creation of a column-free interior volume. The cave provides a naturally tempered environment that benefits from the geologic conditions of the site.

In designing the Art Cave, Bade Stageberg Cox remained particularly sensitive to how the cave functions in relation to the larger property. In particular, the entrance to the cave is aligned with the landscape designed by Tom Leader and with the Skyspaces by James Turrell, while the cave’s exit portal leads directly to the Cady Noland path.

All property photographs © Florian Holzherr

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