Takasugi-an: Tea Tree House

Takasugi-an, which means means “a tea house [built] too high” located in Chino, Nagano Prefecture, Japan (photos by Edmund Sumner via Dezeen Blog).

Takasugi-an was built by Terunobu Fujimori, a tea master, who has an interest in architecture and wished to push the limit and constraints of a traditional teahouse. I think it’s a good example of a small yet beautiful design for the purpose of escape, meditation, and reflection — a perfect setting for the Japanese tea ceremony.

The tea masters traditionally maintained total control over the construction of these “enclosures,” whose simplicity was their main concern. They therefore preferred not to involve an architect or even a skilled carpenter – an act considered as being too ostentatious. Following this tradition, Fujimori decided to build a humble teahouse for himself, and by himself, over a patch of land that belonged to his family.

One of the interesting points is the method Fujimori used to support the tea tree house. Rather than build in existing live trees, he instead chose to harvest two Chestnut trees from a local mountain and install the trunks like irregular poles to support his creation.

The choice of non-living trees for support affords a few luxuries in the building process. For one, the builder can position the home anywhere that suits his desire rather than rely on nature’s placement. Second, the trunks are static in the sense that they’re dead wood like the rest of the building materials, and therefore, may be integrated directly with the house structure itself. Tying a living trunk into a plaster covered wall (picture on the right) is not possible due to the constant movement and growth of the living tree. But in Fujimori’s design it works quite well.

Once inside the room, which is padded simply with plaster and bamboo mats, the architect’s adventurous spirit gives way to the serenity more suited to the purpose of making tea and calming one’s mind.