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The Teahouse was the very first design problem assigned during second-year studio. Students were asked to design a small space near Fargo’s Red River suitable for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The course was taught by Joan Vorderbruggen who encouraged students to visit the site and recommended resources such as Okakura’s Book of Tea.

The point of the project was not to grasp issues of structure or constructability, but rather sources of inspiration and the power of intention. This design arose from a tea ceremony narrative in which the participants would be mentally prepared and then transformed. This would allow the surrounding gardens to be enjoyed again, but in a different, zen-like way.

The garden layout featured two buildings – the teahouse and a restroom – and a bench. The teahouse itself contained a small waiting area which led the the main tearoom. The tearoom floor and the steps leading to it were meant to give the sensation of ‘floating’, or ‘limbo’. The walls were arranged in a way that would paint the interior with ambient light. The size of the tearoom was based on a traditional tatami floor.

I think this project shows a lot of immaturity, but also a lot of promise. Overall, the building’s appearance is disjointed; many of the architectural elements seem aimless. But even so, each of those elements is very interesting in its own right. I also appreciate the care and simplicity that went into some of the design decisions such as where to place certain species of plants.

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  • For ARCH 271

  • Date Fall 2008

  • Type Teahouse, Fargo, Red River

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