The story of Chinese tea began out of sheer coincidence, one that resulted in generations of traditional practice. When Shennong (God farmer), a deity of Chinese religion, noticed simmering water had been dyed into a pale shade of amber by a stray leaf, he proclaimed: “the leaf is a gift from the heavens for the people”. The infusion was entrancing. As Shennong took a sip, he immediately found it refreshing and bittersweet as this fuse of nature also had a detoxifying effect. In China, not only is tea drinking a ritual, but it is also considered as the spiritual and communicative medium between human and nature. The ancient proverb “a person stands among the woods and grass” is of profound symbolism to the Chinese Zen lifestyle. Therefore, a teahouse in traditional Chinese culture is not just a place for people to enjoy tea, but to embark on a spiritual journey and reflect on the relationship between man and nature.
Studio Adjective, a Hong-Kong based design agency, recently completed a teahouse design for the Chinese tea brand, Yú Teahouse, in Hong Kong’s lifestyle complex. Being the first outlet store in the city with panoramic views of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the design of the store revolves around showcasing the tea making process. Yú, which is represented in Chinese by a homonymous character, translates to healing and underlines tea’s restorative powers.
Through design, emphasis is given on creating meaningful interaction spots throughout the store while introducing customers to the traditional cultures and processes of Chinese tea making. The L-shaped service station with a marble countertop not only references minerals but also juxtaposes with the natural colour of the tea leaves.
“The production of tea leaves stem from a natural process by mother nature,” the architects explain. The combination of sunlight, rain, soil and materials affect the quality of the product. Using this to inform the interior, Studio Adjective chose a raw material palette and ensured that it was kept in its most natural state. When customers come in contact with these surfaces, the authentic textures evoke certain sensations that contribute to the overall experience of the teahouse. This architectural metaphor allows visitors to connect with the tea making technique, which has been showcased sophisticatedly.
The palette is respecting of the culture and delicacy, enabling the store to transport people away from the busy shopping mall and into a calm and comfortable tea-tasting experience. Particularly, blackened mild steel and black textured paint were used for the logo on the back wall of the teashop. Splashes of white surfaces add a contemporary touch to what otherwise would have been a traditional teashop. The back curved wall in copper diverts sunlight to create a smooth shadow gradient throughout the interior, gracefully illuminating the entire space.
Manifesting as a culmination of technique and skills from centuries of tea making, the luxuriant Hong Kong teahouse is represented through the coming together of tea leaves, design and nature. Studio Adjective has perfectly orchestrated a balance between material, lighting, and artistic conception to allow for a collision between traditional history techniques and modern culture.
Photography by Studio Adjective & Dick Liu
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