HOBERMAN - Transformable design
Bordeaux, FR
Out of the scenic French countryside rises Hoberman’s first permanent outdoor sculpture in a decade.

Entitled Nouaison (First Growth), the signature art piece was commissioned by the notable Bordeaux vineyard Château Smith Haut Lafitte—a vineyard with history dating back to the 14th century and including ownership by an 18th century Mayor of Bordeaux. The sculpture takes its name from a French term describing the stage of growth when grapevines first develop their fruit—a critical moment in wine production.

Situated on the main terrace of the winery, directly overlooking the grapevines, the freestanding expanding sphere begins at a very human scale—retracted to eye-level for viewers in close proximity. As it transforms, the sphere both extends outward and rises off of its pedestal, growing to nearly four meters tall. From below, the sculpture gradually swells into view and becomes a prominent feature as seen from the surrounding grape rows.

Commissioned by Château owners Daniel and Florence Cathiard, Nouaison continues the Cathiard’s 15-year tradition of collecting monumental sculptures. Hoberman’s artwork sits alongside works by the Italian artist Mimmo Paladino, Americans artists Barry Flanagan and Jim Dine, Chinese artist Wang Duand, Korean artist Chul Hyun Ahn, and British artist Sir Anthony Caro.

Created as a site-specific artwork, Hoberman’s sculpture combines graceful curves with precise details and strong patterning—patterning that both conceptually reflects the Chateau’s ‘terroir’, and visually reflects the lighting and coloring of its lush surroundings. A seemingly random disbursement of deeply engraved hatch patterns creates a varied surface reminiscent of cubist sculpture or stippled impressionist painting. As the sculpture transforms, its individual parts rotate and pick up the direct and reflected sunlight in different ways—catching and transmitting colors from first the bluebird sky, then the terracotta roof of the winery, then the deep greens and mahoganies from the surrounding countryside.

Fabricated out of aircraft grade aluminum with CNC machining, each of the 224 struts and 54 hubs are given their hatch pattern through deep-set, exaggerated passes of the milling tool. The hands-on, artisan machining process, honest materiality and intricate detailing reflects the craftsmanship of the vineyard’s cooperage (barrel making). The parallel machined rows abstractly reference both the orderly grape-rows and a birds-eye view onto the patchwork of the Chateau’s vine plots.

In this context, the movement and materiality of the Sphere respond to, and take on, characteristics of its ever-changing environment—from the swirling morning mists to the dramatic French sunsets.