A teahouse in the mountains
A teahouse in the mountains
3. December 2013
Ancient China had a bewildering system of sacred mountains across the whole empire. The Five Great Mountains were the destinations of imperial pilgrimages and were especially significant in Taoism.
A further group of mountains is associated with Buddhism and referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism. But Mount Tianzhu in Anhui province belongs to the group of the Five Guarding Mountains of ancient China, with meaning for both the Taoist and Buddhist religions.
One of the Happy Lands of Taoism is located on Mount Tianzhu, and the second and third Patriarchs of the Zen School of Buddhism also once lived there. Besides the historic temples and sacred places such as caves and cliffs, the mountain region with 45 peaks higher than 1,000 meters, is well known for its picturesque rock formations and the beauty of the landscape. Today Mount Tianzhu has become important for tourism and for pilgrimages, which both demand a new infrastructure and improved service facilities.
Shanghai based office Archiplein designed the new teahouse together with the small hotel located behind it. However, the client doubled the size of the hotel without discussion. Such changes happen quite often and in this case the architects were only allowed to control the façade of the hotel towards the lake.
However, the embedding of the ensemble reflects the surrounding nature and the topography of the site at the shore of a water reservoir. In contrast to the hotel, the design and construction of the teahouse was under the architects’ complete control. It nestles in the valley near the dam with a view across the lake and the valley. The fragmented form of the building becomes part of the landscape through the way it is integrated into the given location.
The teahouse consists of two levels, the lower directly at the water level of the lake, the upper set back into the topography and connected by a ramp. The timber-planked roof of the lower level is used as a terrace towards the lake. The shell of the building is completely made of concrete, including the polygonal sloped roof. To transport the building material to the site, the construction company built a small cable car, which was cheaper than manual labour.
The rough board-marked concrete exterior is contrasted by the smooth, shiny surface of the waxed concrete walls in the interior. Large windows open the long, narrow lower space to the water surface of the lake directly in front of the façade. At the end of the tubular room, a winding ramp with a water basin in the centre, connected to the lake, leads to the floor above.
The teahouse is furnished with wooden tables and chairs, which help to control the acoustics of the otherwise relatively noisy space with its reflective hard concrete surfaces. The many irregularly placed square windows towards the terrace on the second floor perforate the solid concrete wall and add a playful element to the otherwise tough appearance of the building.
The site is only open for visitors between May and September, the main season for tourists and pilgrims. With the promotion of domestic tourism, the region must prepare to accommodate many tourists in the years to come. Therefore only a strong architecture will withstand daily use, without getting damaged within a season or two. The absence of any details in the monolithic appearance and the limited selection of materials, such as concrete and timber, make the teahouse a solid gateway that can withstand the rush of visitors to the scenic area, of which it is a part.
The grey colour of the concrete and its irregular form integrate the teahouse into the scenic landscape with its blank rocks on the hillside, allowing the teahouse to merge with the natural environment and form an artificial topography, based on the found conditions of the site.
Teahouse in the Mountains
Mount Tianzhu, Anhui