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Heisei, Tea Ceremony House

Ken Yokogawa Architect & Associates

Heisei, Tea Ceremony House
By Editorial Staff -

The building continues the ancient tea ceremony tradition in the contemporary Heisei era, the period that began in 1989 with the death of Emperor Hirohito and the succession to the throne of Akihito. In fact, 2008 is year 20 according to the Japanese calendar.
The teahouse is located inside an area belonging to an important temple in Kawagoe. Architect Ken Yokogawa won the competition with his magnificent project that mingles the built environment and natural landscape, developing a theme close to the architect’s heart: sensai. The word signifies refinement, elegance, sophistication, and delicacy, but also the simplicity from which springs perfect beauty. A key concept of traditional Japanese architecture, sensai is here re-interpreted in contemporary mode with a programme steeped in a sense of proportion, judicious use of materials, and sensitivity for the relations between vertical and horizontal planes, solid and void, interior and exterior.
Every architectural element has to meet the prerequisite of elegance; its presence must be justified by purpose. Choice of materials is of the essence. All materials must have a “character”, explains Shozo Baba, a Japanese critic; materials should not imitate others since they will not transmit the same tactile sensation as the original. Materials must be what they appear, and if possible, should not be mere surface cladding.
Belonging to the same tradition, Ken Yokogawa uses terms like “refinement” and “sophistication” to describe his work. Everything is minutely and painstakingly thought through.
Although the teahouse is part of a temple complex, being located in a sanctuary garden, it is also a kekkai, a Buddhist expression indicating a specific, definite space. The confines of this space are the cedar wood clad concrete walls, reflective pond and wooden lattice. Areas of fair face concrete have been realised with cedar formwork that has left its fine grain tracery on the walls. A travertine path...

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