The key environmental features of the site, including First Creek, the historic stables and heritage wall, and a line of jacarandas bordering the Botanic Gardens, guided the design process and influenced the resolution of the complex requirements. The radial geometry originating from the South African acacias is now the focus of the Centre’s northern forecourt. One arc of this geometry defines the path along which visitors approach the centre, while other arcs stretch into the landscape, forming the layout of the vineyard. The generosity of the site allowed ramps to be used to interconnect the varying levels.
The design of the National Wine Centre was intended to evoke a sense of space typically found within a winery. The materials and finishes gradually change from the course and robust to the fine and smooth surfaces, reflecting the increasingly refined aspects of the winemaking process. The construction itself was formed by the materials and textures that can be found at any vineyard, such as rammed earth, stone, timber, steel, and stainless steel. Rammed earth and ancient building techniques are reinvigorated using steel that permits grand scale yet slender walls. The diagrid roof to the Hickinbotham Hall, with domestic scale timber elements, is precisely engineered to form a shell structure pre-stressed with stainless steel cables.
The design of the Centre exploits the innate quality of the materials in terms of scale, texture, and colour. The rammed earth wall consists of sand from Berri, clay from Gawler, and road base from Golden Grove, South Australia. As a good wine is clean, well-structured, yet complex, the materials in this centre are exposed in their natural condition where possible, to display their intrinsic quality uncluttered by decoration.
The external walls of the Exhibition Hall form a vat-like shape, and the industrial qualities of the bridges and ramps crossing the space add to the impression. As the visitor moves towards the tasting areas, the industrial qualities are left behind, and the scale of the space progresses from the public to the more intimate.
The National Wine Centre of Australia is a cultural and educational centre and a major tourist attraction, dedicated to promoting the Australian wine industry. It was officially opened on October 6, 2001, and was designed by Cox Grieve Architects (Adelaide) in association with Sydney’s Cox Richardson. The centre was envisioned to be the flagship of the Australian Wine Industry, offering information and resources in every aspect of wine growing, winemaking, and new technologies being developed. The site of the National Wine Centre was originally the first mental health hospital in South Australia, built in 1856. The first building can still be seen on the corner of Botanic & Hackney Roads. The main hospital was built several years later, just inside the boundary where the main terrace area now exists. The site was later used as part of the tramway and barn facility before being acquired for the Gardens.
The National Wine Centre site was planted as an orchard in the mid-1900s as part of the Botanic Gardens showcase. In the late 1990s, several options were presented to the government, and the final decision was made in 1997 to develop the site into the National Wine Centre. In return for claiming the site, the National Wine Centre Committee allocated funds for the refurbishment of the Goodman Building (on Hackney Road) and for the development of the Centenary Rose Garden. The National Wine Centre contains an interactive exhibition, wine industry offices, a comprehensive range of wine tasting and function facilities, and extensive educational facilities. As the first dedicated wine centre in Australia, it was predicted that the centre would quickly become synonymous with the tourism industry and an iconic venue for the city of Adelaide.
The stone fence that surrounds the National Wine Centre property was constructed by the inmates of the mental health hospital and is now listed by The National Trust as a heritage icon. The site's history adds to the unique character and charm of the National Wine Centre and makes it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history and culture of South Australia.