Former-band-manager-turned-winemaker Charles Smith wanted a tasting room and office space that matched his rock-and-roll style. The conversion of an auto-electric building retained its gritty aesthetic and resulted in a highly flexible space that can be transformed from a tasting room to a drive-through.

Charles Smith Wines, located in downtown Walla Walla, occupies the former Johnson Auto Electric building, built in 1917. The design team was inspired by Smith’s in-your-face attitude to create a raw space for offices and a tasting room that highlights the original aesthetic of the building while inserting highly flexible pieces, including a large unit dubbed the “armadillo.” The resulting space can transform from an office, tasting room, and retail store into a dining and entertainment venue.

The team highlighted the automotive history of the building by replacing garage doors with two custom, hand-cranked pivot doors that completely open the space to the street and form an awning for outdoor seating. The concept of the drive-through was important in the development of the design. Certain elements, like the prefabricated armadillo, are “parked” within the space; other elements transform as needed, including floating “rafts” that serve as a seating area/stage, tasting tables that dock together to form a dining table, and a sliding panel that can function as a video screen. Vehicles—including delivery vans or taco trucks for catering—can literally drive through the space.

The armadillo contains a conference room and work spaces for 14 people; L-shaped steel panels slide along the side and top of the structure, alternately opening it up to views of the tasting room and admitting natural light from above or shutting it down for security and privacy. The design team collaborated with fabricators to design the structure as well as the custom furniture. Pieces were fabricated off site and quickly assembled within the building, cutting down on construction time.

Additional Credits
Contractor: Schuchart Corporation
Fabricator: Spearhead
Gizmo Engineer: Turner Exhibits
Structural Engineer: KL&A Structural Engineers

Photo Credit
© Benjamin Benschneider

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