A cuboid visitors centre in an Austrian vineyard bottles 900 years of tradition for slurping, sloshing wine bibbers.
On the gentle slope of the Loisium vineyard an hour west of Vienna, generations of winemakers have watched the golden grapes grow plump and the harvests gathered in a slow, traditional dance.

Not the most fertile soil for a piece of snarlingly modern design to take root, you might think. But when an aluminium visitors centre by American architect Steven Holl opened in September, the citizens of the nearby town of Langenlois turned up en masse to celebrate.

The vineyard owners weren't sure they'd be able to tempt the New Yorker to their humble project. But now that Holl has designed a cool cuboid centre as sharp and refreshing as one of the vineyard's rieslings, the little town looks set to become a place of pilgrimage for the culturally curious and the plain bibulous.

The £euro;2.2m visitors centre makes an attraction of the vineyard's underground vaults, where for nine hundred years wine has been laid down. The network of vaults and passageways runs 100 m to the edge of the town, and their layout gave Holl his central design conceit. The windows that slash through the aluminium shell map the passages, giving them a visible form above ground. The building also tilts at 5°, hinting at a subterranean pull.

The materials Holl chose relate to wine-making. The shiny exterior refers to the aluminium caps on wine bottles, and the occasional green window pane looks as though it has been made out of melted bottles. As for the interior lining, well, it had to be cork, didn't it?

Project architect Christian Wassman was concerned that the citizens of Langenlois might balk at the centre's aggressively modern design, but found them amazingly receptive. "They understood those shapes we took from the vault floorplans, and those windows act like frames so they can discover their familiar landscape in new ways," he says.

Holl and Wassman are designing the final phase of the scheme, which is a hotel just outside the town. The owners are hoping the centre will pull in punters for the full Loisium experience. And with 130 wines available for tasting, they're equipped to handle repeat visits.