Shigeru Ban proposes trio of pyramids for Kentucky Owl whiskey distillery
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Shigeru Ban proposes trio of pyramids for Kentucky Owl whiskey distillery

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is overhauling a quarry in Kentucky into a campus built from mass timber, for a local whiskey distillery.

The Pritzker Prize-winning architect was chosen to transform the 420-acre (170-hectare) Cedar Creek Quarry in Kentucky's Bardstown into a campus dedicated to the production of bourbon.

Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban

Across a landscaped setting, called Kentucky Owl Park, Ban will design rickhouses for ageing the spirit, a bottling centre, and a distillery.

Ban's designs are intended to mimic 19th-century steel structures typically used in the industry, but will swap the metal for mass timber.

The concept follows on from the architect's previous experiments with wood construction – which include his first building in Switzerland – with the aim is to create a more sustainable design that blends with natural landscape.

"This is an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves like never before," said Shigeru Ban managing partner Dean Maltz in a statement. "These plans serve as our first Kentucky distillery and incorporate unique highlights and nods to the industry and its history, while prioritising light and a connection to nature – features the architectural world has come to expect from our firm."

Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban

Buildings will be arranged around the existing quarry pits, which will be turned into huge lakes filled with limestone-filtered water for to use in its whiskey production.

Among these structures are three wooden pyramids, where the Kentucky Owl Bourbon distillery will be located.

The trio will feature the same construction, but their wooden cladding will differ. One will be nearly entirely covered, with sporadic diamond-shaped openings; the middle one will have a regular arrangement; the wooden structural frames of the last will be nearly entirely exposed, as if the cladding has peeled away.

Pathways will meander over the water to form links across the vast site.

A series of shed-like structures with gabled roofs will form the rickhouses, where the whiskey is left to age. A wooden station will form the hub for the vintage dinner train, which will stop on the property as part of the tourist Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Kentucky Owl Park will also include an entrance building featuring curved wooden columns and offices for the American Whiskey Division of Stoli Group – the sector of the SPI group that handles Kentucky Owl Bourbon and announced Ban's involvement.

Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban received the Pritzker Prize in 2014 in recognition of his pioneering use of cardboard for disaster-relief projects.

The architect has gained recognition for his socially and environmentally conscious projects, with recent efforts including the design of temporary shelters made from paper for Japan flooding victims.

His other buildings in North America include the "world's tallest hybrid timber structure", which is currently underway in Vancouver.

Video and image stills are courtesy of Virginlemon.

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Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban
Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban
Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban
Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban
Kentucky Owl Park by Shigeru Ban