Charles Smith Wines is located in downtown Walla Walla in the former Johnson Auto Electric building, constructed in 1917. Winemaker Charles Smith approached our firm to design a new tasting room and office space that would match his rock and roll style.
The design team was inspired by Charles’s in-your-face attitude to create a raw space that highlights the original aesthetics 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 shell of the building—with original brick walls, wood trusses and a concrete floor—received minor structural updates but was otherwise left raw. 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-thru was important in the development of the design. Elements of the design, 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 workspaces 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 natural light from above or shutting it down for security and privacy. The design team collaborated with fabricators from Spearhead to design the structure as well as the custom furniture within it. Pieces were fabricated offsite and quickly assembled within the building, cutting down on construction time.
Designed by Olson Kundig Architects