Les Davids in Provence: a unique place where wine meets art, architecture and nature
Les Davids is a 320-hectare estate located in the south of France (in the commune of Viens, on the edge of the Luberon Regional Nature Park in the Vaucluse, on the border of the Alpes de Haute Provence), belonging to the Belgian real estate specialist Sophie Le Clercq.
Le Clercq acquired the land in 2000, before restoring it with passion by reintroducing biodiversity. Les Davids, which now has 50 hectares of vines, surrounded by orchards and gardens, currently produces eleven high-quality organic wines. Spurred on by the relentless energy of Sophie Le Clercq and her continuous flow of ideas, Les Davids has since grown into a unique place for gastronomy, wine, art, architecture and nature lovers.
In 2021, a new winery by architect Marc Barani opened on the estate. The winery - as impressive as it is discreet - includes, in addition to the winemaking areas, a sales counter and a terrace for wine and food tastings. The estate also houses the studio of Belgian artist Yves Zurstrassen. Several of his works are integrated into the winery, but the most striking is a huge 11 x 2 metre mural in ceramic tiles, which has been placed in the entrance corridor.
This summer, Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets designed a 2 km long walking route, opening up new paths to reveal the great diversity of natural and cultivated landscapes on the edge of the Davids. The curator Anne Pontégnie is coordinating interventions of contemporary artists (such as David Nash, Marguerite Humeau and Gabriel Chaile) that will be integrated into the route as of 2023.
The Belgian photographer Gilbert Fastenaekens documented the project in time through a "landscape observatory". From shot to shot, similar framings document the evolution of the landscapes that make up the Davids' route. The works will be exhibited from June to September in the harvest room of the winery.
Also on the estate are a number of hamlets that have been transformed into luxury holiday residences with a total of more than 30 rooms: Les Hameaux des Davids.
The landscape project by Bas Smets
The estate of Les Davids is located in the heart of the Luberon, a region known for its great diversity of ecosystems and rich flora and fauna. Wooded hills, rolling fields, arid plateaus, as well as landscaped vineyards and fruit trees follow one another.
The landscape project by Bas Smets consists of revealing these existing landscapes by means of a continuous route, interrupted by highlights.
In a first step, Bureau Bas Smets defined 8 sequences that together form a rich and varied walk. Each sequence immerses the visitor in a different landscape, characterised by its soil composition, vegetation, topography, slopes and height differences.
In a second step, they identified 15 exceptional moments. Remarkable trees, historic buildings or unique vegetation, each offers a special moment during the route.
Through an immersive experience, these 8 sequences and 15 moments shift the visitor's gaze and reveal the environment in coherent landscapes.
About Bas Smets
Bas Smets has a background in landscape architecture, civil engineering and architecture. He founded his ﬁrm in Brussels in 2007 and has since completed projects in more than 12 countries with his team of twenty architects and landscape architects. Starting from a precise reading of the existing land, his projects reveal a landscape, visible yet unseen. These projects vary in scale from territorial visions to infrastructural landscapes, from large parks to private gardens, from city centres to ﬁlm sets.
Bas Smets’ realised projects include the park of Thurn & Taxis and the Saint-Gilles Plaza in Brussels; the public space around the Trinity Tower in Paris La Défense, the Sunken Garden and the Mandrake Hotel in London, the Himara Waterfront in Albania and the Parc des Ateliers in Arles.
Bas Smets had a master in Architecture and Civil Engineering from the University of Leuven and a master in Landscape form the University of Geneva. He has taught in many schools such as the Ecole d’Architecture la Cambre in Brussels, the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris and the Technische Universität in Graz.
In 2008 he was awarded the biennial French prize for young landscape architects ‘Les Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes et des Paysagistes’. A ﬁrst monographic exhibition was produced in 2013 by deSingel International Arts Centre and arc en rêve centre for architecture in Bordeaux.
In 2017 he was appointed General Commissioner for the Biennial of Architecture of Bordeaux, and in 2018 he received the Award for Urbanism from the French Academy of Architecture.
About Gilbert Fastenaekens
Soon recognised for his photographic work on urban landscapes by night, Gilbert Fastenaekens took part in the Datar photographic mission in France in 1984. The work from this period is collected in the books Nocturne and Essai pour une archéologie imaginaire.
In 1987, during a photographic mission in the region of Belfort, he combined the notion of landscape with the contemplative experience of a forest in Champagne-Ardenne under the title Noces. At the same time, Gilbert Fastenaekens continued his work on Brussels until 1996, published under the title Site, in which he questioned the meaning of the city and its development. In 2000, with Site II, he radicalised this approach by composing an alphabet of elementary forms, consisting of adjoining façades which are not architectural but constructive.
Since 2006, Gilbert Fastenaekens has been researching video. In the video installation Libre de ce monde (Free of this world), he records the "manifestation", both banal and spectacular, of the laughter of individuals, duos or small groups. In Vis-à-Vis (produced in Milan), five screens are set up, alternating between still images of urban banalities, simple everyday gestures and portraits subjected to time.
Gilbert Fastenaekens returns to photography with 'photographic reconstructions' based on old postcards of Brussels, published under the title Correspondance in 2010. These confrontations, between past and present, question our way of looking at reality through the almost imperceptible elements that pull a city through time, without judgement or the nostalgia that might arise from comparing the two images.
Gilbert Fastenaekens is represented by the Les Filles du Calvaire gallery in Paris.
He has been a professor at La Cambre, as well as at the Institut Supérieur Libre des Arts Plastiques (ERG) in Brussels.
About Les Davids
Les Davids is located at an altitude of 600 m, one of the highest wine estates in the Vaucluse, on the edge of the Luberon, a wild region where the diversity of the soils creates a rich terroir. The natural park of Luberon, in which it is situated, is divided between oak forests, aromatic garrigues and crops of lavender, olive trees and vines. Since time immemorial, goats and sheep have walked over the ridges. Deer, wild boar and Mediterranean birds can be seen here, as well as more mountainous species.
The estate is consciously run according to organic farming methods, which guarantee biodiversity and the presence of natural yeasts that ensure perfect fermentation. The altitude and these combined qualities, both human and natural, allow the estate to produce exceptional wines in reasonable quantities year after year.
At the heart of the estate, three ponds collect run-off water through overgrown ditches. For five hundred years, the wild spring has fed the old washhouse, which adjoins the courtyard of the Davids. The overflow flows into the ditch that leads to the first water reservoir. A drip irrigation system brings the water to where it is needed.