Terunobu Fujimori, in collaboration with Kingston University students, builds a Tea House at the Barbican for The Japanese House: Architecture and Life After 1945 exhibition.
Hayatsu Architects worked with Japanese architect and historian Terunobu Fujimori to design and construct a Tea House for the Japanese House exhibition at the Barbican Centre in 2017. The Fujimori Tea House is one of two 1:1 installations commissioned for the London show, alongside a replica of the Moriyama House designed by Ryue Nishizawa.
Fujimori maintains that buildings can be made by non-professional people and the Fujimori Tea House follows this principle. It was constructed by the hands of students and tutors from Kingston University, under the guidance of the London based Japanese architect Takeshi Hayatsu. The exterior cladding utilises Yakisugi, charred timber produced using the traditional Japanese charring technique. The charring workshop was held at Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex in January 2017, organised by Kingston University as part of their pedagogy. The structure was prefabricated at the University’s workshop. The bronze cast handles, ceramic lampshades, hearth, vase and plywood stools were also handmade by students from Kingston’s architecture, product, and furniture design courses.
The Fujimori Tea House, an original commission for the Barbican exhibition, forms part of a garden, an interpretation of a traditional Japanese tea garden. The garden represents the traditional form and arrangement closely linked with the ritual of the tea ceremony, arranged around the Barbican’s massive central concrete column. The 16th century tea master Sen No Rikyu established three principles which Fujimori follows. A small, confined entry way, a small interior space, and a hearth containing fire in the room. Guests to the Fujimori Tea House are invited by the host to enter through a gate clad in charred timber, dividing the outer and inner territories. A narrow path leads to a water bowl and a lantern to wash hands before entering the Fujimori Tea House. When reaching the Tea House, which is elevated on chestnut stilts and oak beams, guests are asked to take off their shoes and enter from underneath via a ladder. The interior is 3x3m, the size of four and half tatami mats, a typical size standardised 400 years ago in Japan. It is designed to accommodate six people, sitting, circling a central hearth.
The Fujimori Tea House does not follow certain Japanese traditions, such as the use of a tatami mat floor, shoji paper screens, and Tokonoma, an alcove for ornamental artifacts. Instead, guests sit on a plastered floor, facing a corner of the room, decorated with charcoal on the white plaster by Fujimori by himself, a ceramic vase and a lampshade made by the students lighting up a living flower in the room.