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We designed a cluster of tea rooms offering a view of the surrounding scenery and the starlit sky as an “tea house connecting people to the stars and nature” located in the town of Bisei, Okayama Prefecture, known as a sanctuary for stargazing. The site is surrounded by rolling hills and distant mountains and offers a view on a spectacular landscape. Deliverables included a place able to accommodate a variety of events held throughout the year by the Astronomy Club and the Tea Ceremony Club as well as a performance stage for concerts and plays.

Named after two rivers running though it, the town of Bisei (“beautiful stars” in English) is found in Okayama Prefecture which is also known for being the birthplace of Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist priest, credited with introducing green tea to Japan. In alignment with its heritage, the constellation of tea rooms is also in harmony with the surrounding undulating terrain, thus creating a landscape in which the indoor and outdoor expand seamlessly like the flow of a river under the Milky Way.

The open arrangement of the structures forms a stage conductive to various events and activities by creating a space where multiple indoor and outdoor activities become possible. The Japanese tea room was developed as an enclosed microcosm called a “enclosure,” and as such each unit is designed as a spatial installation where one can perceive minute changes in its natural surroundings and experience the wonder and mystery of natural phenomena.

Painted with stellar colors, each volume presents polygonal openings from which can be taken in the beautiful offerings of nature such as light, rain and the starry night sky. Moreover, mirrors placed on the exterior walls reflect the ever-changing outdoor environment like the water surface of rice paddies scattered across Bisei, thus modifying the look and perception of the constructions throughout the day.

Visitors can experience the project as a galaxy of tea rooms built independently as they move in and around them freely. The outdoor space, taken as the space comprised between the tea rooms, the surrounding nature and the starry sky are beautifully intertwined to form a “new landscape” that comes in and out of view through the openings and gaps cut out from the multiple structures. The loose gathering of tea rooms forms an extension of the landscape and creates an environment enhancing the fun and joy derived from human activities. By merging together this newly formed belt of tea rooms with the idyllic hills, mountains and starry skies of Bisei, we sought to realize a tea house that reshapes the town’s panorama.

Designed by Moriyuki Ochiai,Jillian Lei, Xingguang Li, Marie Uno,Haruka Amano,Yuta Takahashi / Moriyuki Ochiai Architects Inc.
Photography by Fumio Araki

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