If you are in the Luberon Valley in Provence and tire of the myriad hill towns and lavender fields (I know, it's hard to get tired of that, but just try and use your imagination), there is an exciting new and relatively unknown art project going on in the region of Aix-en-Provence at a property called Chateau La Coste.
It is, first and foremost, a 250 acre winery tucked in between forests of oaks, fields of almonds and wildflowers. But in 2004, an idea was born to create a place where art, architecture and landscape came together. Artists and architects from all over the world were invited to visit Chateau La Coste and then encouraged to choose a place that "spoke directly to them" where they could create something that would live there.
The list of names who finally participated is impressive: Tadao Ando built the Arts Centre and welcoming point for visitors. Jean Nouvel designed the wine making cellar and Gehry and Partners built the music pavilion. Artists whose sculptures are dotted around the landscape include Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, Paul Matisse and a surprise entry from Michael Stipe of REM fame!
It is a wonderful project and definitely worth scoping out. The best thing is it really jolts your point of reference because for most of us, Provence is all about ancient hill towns, fields of lavender and poppies, and men in berets playing boules under huge plane trees. But suddenly, this image is disrupted with a more contemporary version of Provence today.
There is a mapped walk you can do to see each piece in its environment. And at the end of a couple of hours of wandering, you return to Ando's streamlined building to eat a heavenly lunch overlooking the vineyards.
To set the scene
Rolling hills of vines, olives and oaks
The clean lines of Tadao Ando's Welcome building
More Tadao Ando
Chapel: Tadao Ando, Croix: Jean-Michel Othoniel