Zhao Zhao tea lounge
合風蒼飛設計工作室 & 張育睿建築師事務所
Zhao Zhao Tea Lounge itself is an old house of 40 years with reinforced structure, located in a quite alley and facing the south. The owner, with more than 30 years of experience as he has been immersed in tea culture since childhood, wants to share the wonderful Taiwanese tea with more diverse groups of people in different ways. That’s why he came up with the idea of having a tea appreciation space where Taiwanese tea culture can extend its roots.
Taking into consideration of the owner’s intention, we propose to set up tea roasting area in the first floor, where guests would be enticed by the fragrance as they observe master tea-making. There is a tea place right next to the roasting area, as guests can rest amid lingering smell of charcoal baking and tea. To introduce more nature into the space, we open up the once-closed backyard and plant more trees in front and behind the house. Sipping a cup of tea here would then become a ceremony of pampering the five senses, from beautiful sights to pleasant experiences of taste, touch, sound and smell.
“Change” is the theme of interior design here, reflecting the experiences in high-altitude tea gardens, where the clouds, fogs, lights and shadows, fauna and flora are always pure albeit everchanging. Visitors are here to indulge the peace of mind and enriching feelings. On the old walls, we leverage hand craftsmanship of “polishing”, “carving” and “knocking” to mimic different textures to approach nature; the walls are mottled, uneven, and filled with pores, preserving the marks of time with visual and tactile triggers. With the sun and the air flowing in through the big windows, the walls of various textures show various quality and feelings as if “changeable”. It’s a salute to nature, revealing the essence of the old house— a bare space without over decoration. Excessive material and decorations would compromise the visual impression and quality of the space, diluting the essence of the space. Therefore, under the prerequisite of “carefree and quite appreciation of tea”, we choose “humble room” as the theme for the space and impressions. All materials we use follow the idea of “tea can be appreciated in different forms, but always in calm”— unpolished, locally accessible, user friendly and sourced from nature.
Transparency is another key idea in this project. We leverage big windows and the atrium to let the sun and air in, as the texture of light flow along the wall with the breeze, creating solid yet enriched indoor scenes, another salute to nature. We apply materials of different levels of transparency in the space to shape light and landscape, for example laser-cut hold boards, veils, glasses, etc. to blur the boundaries of outdoor gardens and thus reconnect. Space here is an extension of our perspective to nature, as we can feel the sun or see the breeze in the dancing shadows of the tree. The biggest retrofit spot in the project is the staircase. It was once a traditional concrete stairway with several flights which actually blocked the view. As we focus on transparency and would like to have natural light in, we decided to open an atrium on the third floor. To go with it, apparently we need an elegant spiral staircase that resembles a tree with dangling hole boards and transforms the space upward.
In addition, we use yakisugi (burned fir) for the outdoor parts in line with the “roast” theme. “Burned” is a sensation that can extend to and remind us of tea, as the fire element is inevitable for tea making. Yikisugi is common in oriental architecture for it well presents the texture of dried wood, and therefore it is a perfect fit for tea rooms when used to decorate the exterior. Tea culture is ubiquitous in Taiwan as it is a vital part of lifestyle here. Tea is used to welcome guests, find our own peace of mind, and serve to unite people. Therefore, we would like to highlight the tea culture in Taiwan through our design, that tea is for everyone and not any exclusive prestige. “A cup of tea purifies the mind” is our central idea for this space. Tea drinking is not deemed as virtue that may light up the room, as the old saying goes, but we are more than willing to create aesthetics for beautiful minds with tea in this humble room.
Being mindful and live in the now is my ideal for teahouses in Taiwan. Tea drinking and tea ceremonies are ways to approach and experience nature. Tea comes from nature, and as we make tea, we should be able to enjoy nature. Presenting the space in a natural way is the most important element in designing a tea house like this one. Humbleness is very close to the spirit and culture of tea in Taiwan. Humble is not necessarily just “inexpensive”; rather, it is being able to enjoy the moment under whatever circumstance. Tea brings peace and exchange; it is a way of living and living culture.