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KOU-AN Glass Tea House By Tokujin Yoshioka
As an architecture student, the internet is one of the most useful tools for discovering inspiring projects and learning about global architecture. I have seen photos of thousands of buildings that I would not have even known exist, let alone get the chance to visit them. This tea house is one example of a project that has influenced me and my work during this semester.
Located in Kyoto, Japan, the tea house sits adjacent to the Shoren-in Temple which was built between the 8th and 12th century. Despite being constructed of relatively modern materials, sheet glass and slender steel, the tea house sits sympathetically beside its neighbour, quietly exuding class and simplicity. The slope of the glass roof mimics the angle of the temple roof, and the large glass panels overlap in the same way as the smaller tiles. Both the temple and tea house are raised off the floor, giving them equal authority. Another exquisite touch is the proportioning of the tea house, with its sloping roof skimming the strong horizontal line created by the lowest temple roof.
Wooden structural posts in the temple have been replaced with slender steel columns in the tea house, whilst all the other elements are glass. The glazing makes the tea house almost invisible, with only the joins visible. This distills the building down to some of its fundamental lines, adding to its simple aesthetic and ensuring the limelight is not taken away from the historic temple. The tea house was one piece of inspiration in my current university project, where my theme was distillation. I tried to distill my building design to only necessary parts, and then beautifully combine them. Whilst the scale of the building and location is completely different, glazing and steel cladding were suitable materials that would make my building gleam in the sun.
Back at the tea house, when the sun shines diffraction of the rays entering through the glass creates rainbow patterns on the glass floor. This idea adds energy to the project, and I’m sure would be a positive surprise for anyone using the tea house. The floor uses large glass blocks with a rippled surface. When the light catches these imperfections the floor seems to ripple, giving the subtle appearance of a still lake that has been disturbed. As the temple complex is surrounded by nature instead of sitting amongst it, and the standard location of tea houses is amid the flora and fauna, Yoshioka thought it was appropriate to reference the environment in his design.

In my opinion Yoshioka’s tea house is a fantastic addition to the Shoren-in temple complex, despite completely contrasting the temple in materiality. It was a brave decision to use the contemporary design, however subtle touches such as the proportioning and tiled roof clearly link the tea house to its larger neighbour. In many ways Yoshioka’s building reflects the tea ceremonies of Japan, it is a simple and understated display and appreciation of aesthetic beauty.