“I already had the Calder but wanted it somewhere out in a space, not locked up in a basement. So I brought it here.”

Irish businessman Paddy McKillen was recorded saying the above when asked about how Chateau La Coste was born in an interview completed in 2019. If you get hold of the estate’s map today, you will see that Chateau La Coste’s development has come a long way. Artworks and small buildings or pavilions by international artists or architects have been meticulously added to the collection on the grounds, complemented by temporary installations by artists such as Damien Hirst. Damien Hirst’s The Light That Shines was on show when I visited in spring 2024. What makes the estate special in my opinion is the focus on excellent art, as well as the high calibre of architecture and gastronomic vision that McKillen has brought to this part of Europe. Although the main use of the estate since its inception in 1682 was to plant and harvest grapes for the production of wine dates, since McKillen’s ownership starting 2004 when he transported Alexander Calder’s Small Crinkly (1976) onto the estate, in two decades, Chateau La Coste transformed into a destination of its own right for enthusiasts and connoisseurs of art, architecture and gastronomy.

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Chateau La Coste’s welcome upon arrival, the Centre d’Art by Tadao Ando accompanied by Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spider. Image by Von Chua.

Within the Chateau La Coste estate are several buildings and pavilions by international architects from the late Richard Rogers to Tadao Ando. Above is an image from one of the higher elevations of the estate, where the vineyard seen in the foreground is accompanied by one of the latest additions to the estate - Richard Roger’s Galerie (2021) in his signature style as well as the beauty of mother nature. At the far end of Roger’s Galerie is a facade fitted with slimline glazing and a door to access a terrace that runs the full short width of the building. If only the gallery attendant allowed the door to be opened on that beautiful spring day.

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Galerie by Richard Rogers at the distance in Chateau La Coste. Image by Von Chua.

Amongst the buildings and pavilions, the most well-known amongst all of the buildings is probably Tadao Ando’s welcome centre called the Centre d’Art which was completed in 2011. With the Centre d’Art, the building appears to lightly touch the ground as if it has been part of the estate for decades, marking the arrival and welcome of all visitors of Chateau La Coste. The Centre d’Art at pedestrian level connects visitors to the wider estate where some of the paths are deliberately kept without much human intervention, but the reflection pool - a subtle reminder of Ando’s work without seeing too much concrete cleverly conceals the parking area which Ando’s team did not spare their attention to detail even though it is merely the space for visitors to leave their cars. It is this level of attention to detail that is present and felt upon arrival - your experience here will be taken care of, suggests why Chateau La Coste became well known amongst art, architecture and gastronomy enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

This first commission of a Tadao Ando building within the estate was somewhat called forth by McKillen’s desire to introduce a piece of artwork by Louise Bourgeois to this art haven. The story from McKillen goes:

She asked if it would be public and I said yes and that it would be amazing to put it over water. Then I thought of Tadao Ando and those two completely spontaneous thoughts - water and minimalist architecture - brought her round.

Through McKillen and his team’s unwavering commitment to inviting and commissioning some of the best artists, architects and chefs, meant that the experience of exploring the 500-acre estate felt truly special. In July 2021, Helene Darroze, the acclaimed three Michelin-starred chef of Helene Darroze at the helm of The Connaught, London, opened Helene Darroze at Villa La Coste. In this Provence location, the restaurant is led by head chef Thomas Pezeril. A majority of the fruits, vegetables, meat and fish served at Helene Darroze at Villa La Coste are locally sourced - around 95% according to a launch article, and are additionally topped up by supplies from the gardens of the Chateau La Coste’s estate.  

Through the Maybourne Hotel Group, The Connaught Hotel in London, UK was owned by Paddy McKillen from 2004 to 2015. Under his direction fairly soon after the change in ownership, The Connaught Hotel underwent a two year renovation between 2006 and 2008. It was during this time, that McKillen worked with the likes of Damien Hirst and Tadao Ando, as well as Helene Darroze. McKillen is said to retain a financial interest in the hotels under the Maybourne Hotel Group, which includes Claridges and The Berkeley. It seems like McKillen is loyal to his team, whether they are architects, artists or chefs.

Obviously, there is something McKillen and his team are doing right. The Chateau La Coste is internationally known today as a destination for art, architecture and wine lovers. One can visit for a day or stay the night at one of the 28 villa suites in the hotel to satisfy their creative and artistic curiosity, spatial understanding as well as their stomach. Chateau La Coste is a short 40 minute drive from Marseille’s airport or Marseille city in the south of France, see the link (https://chateau-la-coste.com) to find out more.