高過庵 | Takasugi-an

* 1946 (71 years old)

Terunobu Fujimori is a recognized Japanese architect and historian of architecture. He is more known in Japan, but after his feature as the curator of the Japanese pavilion at 2006 Venice Biennale, he became well-known to the world as well.

Having built several tea houses for his acquaintances, he decided to build one for himself. It is situated in his hometown, which has become part of Chino. Chino is a city in the mountains just east of Nagano.

As is customary with his works, the house is ecological and innovative. It is built from wood cut on the surrounding mountains. The two main supports are naked chestnut trees. The plaster is a traditional, earthy one and the roof copper, which is also a traditional material. Six meters (almost 20 ft for the Americans) above ground, in the branches of these tall chestnut trees, rests a tiny tea house.

The name Takasugi-an means “a tea house [built] too high.”

It is so tiny that one can’t stand up in it. Which is not an exception among tea houses. What is more inventive is the window—the painting that should hang in every traditional tea house and depict the current season is replaced by a window overlooking the former town of Miyakawa-mura. This therefore shows the current season as well as the city changing through the times.

The tea house is accessible by two free-standing ladders. As is good manners in Japan, shoes taken off at the midway point, the platform with a flimsy, pro forma railing. The tea house gently sways in the mountain winds.

Here the famous architect can enjoy a cup of matcha with his visitors and a beautiful view.

Japanese tea houses are a fascinating subject to study. They are bound by traditional rules and yet, since they were very often designed by the masters of tea and not by masters of carpentry, are extremely variable in their simplicity. The character 庵 [あん, an] means a hut. You can barely go simpler than a hut in architecture.

Another principle (I have already mentioned the seasonal picture.) is to enter the room humbly. In “normal” tea rooms this is achieved by lowering the lintel to under a meter above ground. Entering the room from below is the ultimate solution.


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