A Whimsical, Charred-Wood Teahouse Stands on Stilts in Germany

A Whimsical, Charred-Wood Teahouse Stands on Stilts in Germany

By Lucy Wang
Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori’s latest teahouse creation floats among pine trees at the Museum Insel Hombroich.

After a year of preparation, Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori and Germany’s Museum Insel Hombroich have unveiled the Ein Stein Tea House, a sculptural teahouse elevated three meters above the ground on untreated robinia (black locust) trunks.

Ein Stein Tea House is located at Museum Insel Hombroich in Neuss, Germany, on the grounds of a disused NATO missile base.

Charred black from yakisugi—aka shou sugi ban—a Japanese technique for wood preservation, the modern teahouse combines elements of traditional Japanese culture with Neo-Dadaist sensibilities in an experimental style characterized by eccentricity and humor that has defined Fujimori’s best-known architectural work in the last three decades.

Terunobi Fujimori carbonized the wood on-site. The yakisugi method of charring wood helps protect the timber from rot and pests.

A narrow, 19-step metal staircase leads up to the teahouse.

Fujimori, now 73 years old, is renowned in Japan as a cultural commentator and architectural historian. But it wasn’t until 1991 that he finally made his first foray into architecture with the completion of a small family museum in Nagano featuring an experimental facade that earned praise from architect Kengo Kuma and helped launch his career in architecture.

The recently installed teahouse is part of the "Ein Stein Tea House and Other Architectures" exhibition that's housed within the museum's converted Hombroich Rocket Station.

Over the last few decades, Fujimori has often made Japanese tearooms and teahouses the focus of his architectural work and has completed about a dozen permanent teahouse installations around the world. Each one-of-a-kind creation is characterized by the use of natural materials, a site-specific approach and a sense of playfulness with their somewhat cartoonish appearance.

A view of the exhibition curated by Frank Boehm and Leonhard Panzenböck that showcases large-scale black-and-white photos of Fujimori’s teahouse projects as well as the design process behind the Ein Stein Tea House.

The exhibition highlights natural materials, which Fujimori always uses for his projects, from smaller-scale teahouses to larger buildings.

The recently installed Ein Stein Tea House—a name that translates to One Stone Tea House and is also an homage to the German physicist Albert Einstein—is the Japanese architect’s first permanent teahouse in Germany.

The site-specific project was placed between pine trees in front of an earthen wall that leads to Tadao Ando’s Langen Foundation, an art museum also located on the grounds of the Museum Insel Hombroich.

In contrast to the blackened exterior, the interior is wrapped in light-colored oak paneling for a modern appearance that eschews the tatami floor mats and shoji screens found in traditional Japanese teahouses.

A U-shaped wooden bench wraps around the table used for tea ceremonies. The three-part sliding window is handmade with leaded glass and frames south-facing views of the forest.

The Ein Stein Tea House will be open for tea ceremonies and guided tours during the duration of Fujimori’s exhibition Ein Stein Tea House and Other Architectures from September 4 to November 29, 2020 and from February 5 to April 11, 2021. 

Related Reading: 

Terunobu Fujimori

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