Czech Architects Reinterpret The Japanese Teahouse
July 17, 2012
Many architects have tried to reproduce the poetics of the traditional Japanese tea house, with varying levels of success. Of course, any cross-cultural appropriations will result in some degree of mixing between the new host culture and the originating one. A recent example of this is the Black Teahouse by A1Architects.
Located in the Czech town of Ceská Lípa, the teahouse is composed of a semi-enclosed room and a porch extending out into the surrounding garden. Nods to the form of the traditional Japanese tea house, or chashitsu, include the daime, or sunken hearth, the sliding doors, and a small version of a tokonoma, the niche for calligraphy scrolls and flower arrangements. The teahouse displays some distinctively Central European character, as well, such as the use of charred larch to clad the exterior and the use of semicircles as a formal element. Continue.
But the teahouse also serves as a prominent showcase of the theories of Gottfried Semper, a Central European architectural theorist whose ideas were popular in the late 19th-century. In The Four Elements of Architecture, Semper enumerates the four basic archetypal pieces of all buildings, which he lists as: the hearth, the mound (foundation or platform), the tectonics (frame or structure), and the textiles (cladding, enclosure). To visualize these elements, he used the example of “the primitive hut” which looks much like the Black Teahouse. The prominent platform is markedly differentiated from the ground plane and forms the mound, while the hearth is obvious and central to the project. The tectonics of the structure are clearly visible, while the ceiling of the teahouse is made of woven cord, a textile.
Here we see the merging of two culturally ingrained systems of thought in one fairly simple building. Every piece of the Black Teahouse seems to be a metaphor for something, creating an outstanding small building, rich in meaning.