Asian Art Museum
Teahouse at the Asian Art Museum
The Asian Art Museum’s teahouse was designed by architect Osamu Sato as a functioning teahouse, as well as a display case. It is a three and three-quarters (sanjo daime) mat room. It is complete with an alcove for the display of a scroll and flowers, an electric-powered sunken hearth used in winter for the hot water kettle, and a functioning preparation area (mizuya) with fresh running water and drain. Its three interior ceiling levels display three different ceiling treatments. The teahouse has a sliding glass front that opens fully when in use for live tea demonstrations, but secures the space as a display case when not in use. It was constructed in Kyoto by the distinguished firm Nakamura Sotoji Komuten, long famous for refined traditional Japanese architecture built by specially trained, artisan carpenters and craftsmen. In September 2002, the teahouse was installed in the museum’s second-floor collections gallery devoted to Japanese art. Four carpenters came from Kyoto to construct the teahouse and apply the final wall finishes. Learn more about this teahouse on the Asian Art Museum's education website.
Want to join the conversation?
- Why is tea so important to most Asian cultures?(5 votes)
- Teahouses used and still are a way for people to socialize. The importance of tea has been exemplified by the ceremony on how tea is prepared. Before the British started trading with people in Asia, certain teas were not known to the Europeans and the trade fueled the growing demand of tea.(11 votes)
- After all the talk about precious woods gathered for many years, I noticed the artisan hefting a sheet of plywood from2:00to2:05. That kind of ruined my feeling of long tradition. So, for how long have Japanese teahouses been built from plywood?(3 votes)
- According to a google search,Plywood is used often in Japanese teahouses(1 vote)
- what is camellia?(2 votes)
- Here in the U.S. it's a lovely flower grown on bushes which sometime are quite large. I've seen them 10' to 12' tall. The video showed a sheet of flat wood, edged by what looked to me like a large branch taken from a camellia bush with the smaller side branches clipped off. Perhaps there is little or no difference between the camellia bushes here and those used in Japanese Tea House carpentry.(2 votes)
- how long did it take them to finish?(1 vote)
- Two weeks I think... But that was in the U.S. I don't know how long it took them to make all the pieces in Japan...(1 vote)
- why is it called the teahouse?(0 votes)
- The question is why is it called tea house. The name defines what the building or room is used for.(2 votes)
The Japanese tearoom is specifically built for the tea ceremony, a vibrant living practice. This handcrafted structure creates a rustic environment for tea, and is a work of art in itself. The tearoom at the Asian Art Museum was designed to fit into the gallery space, and is fully functional. It has an electric burner to heat water for tea, and a kitchen, or "mizuya," with running fresh water. The lighting coming through the windows is timed to simulate natural light. There is a morning, afternoon, and evening setting. The alcove, or "tokonoma," is a special area for the display of objects, selected to set the theme and stimulate conversation in the tea gathering. A calligraphy scroll, flowers, and incense container are among the items that might be placed here. The tearoom was constructed at Nakamura Sotoji in Kyoto. Mr. Nakamura's workshop was chosen for its renown for making high quality, traditional Japanese buildings, and because of its stock of beautiful and rare woods collected over generations. A variety of woods are used in the tearoom: cedar, cypress, pine, bamboo, and camellia. This wood is carefully selected and then weathered and dried over a period of time. Tearoom artisans are trained in a Kyoto carpentry tradition called "teahouse-style building." In keeping with tradition, the museum's tearoom was built using handcrafted joinery techniques. The architect Osamu Sato and four highly specialized artisans came from Japan in September of 2002. They spent two weeks in San Francisco assembling the tearoom, which had been shipped in pieces from Kyoto. Once in the U.S., some pieces were cut to fit to account for the wood shrinking or expanding during transit. The three layers and final coat of wall plastering were also applied here. The installation of the tatami mat flooring provided the finishing touch. The Asian Art Museum's tearoom, used both for the display of objects and tea gatherings, provides a living environment where one may experience tea and study its related arts.