The Forbidden City Red-Wall Teahouse

The Red-Wall Teahouse is situated inside a public park which used to be the Ancestral Temple – a royal memorial temple for ancestors southeast to the Forbidden City. The palace wall on the east side of the temple wrapped around the Forbidden City as the second ring wall in which Tian’an Men functioned as the main gate. The wall had long been a symbol of social class division in old China, now nothing but a spatial threshold separating the imperial garden from the Hutong houses to the east. During modern authority transitions, undocumented damage took down northern half of the wall.

The renovation project took place right at the breakage of the wall. Two shabby warehouses were left on site unattended, one attached to the red imperial wall and the other one set around three meters away north to the first one. As an immediate design reaction, the roof of the first warehouse was tipped down to reveal the body of the palace wall on the Hutong side. Then a cluster of freestanding steel-frame tearooms were inserted into the middle of the ‘unroofed garden’ introducing courtyards in between the old and the new structures. The exterior of the north teahouse which had been kept in better shape was insulated with new cover material. Its interior was opened up to match modern program needs. It is, then, through such interplay of old and new, volume and void, tradition and modern, solemnity and absurdness that unprecedented readings on local environment start to emerge.