Takasugi-an by Terunobu Fujimori



Here's another of Terunobu Fujimori's projects photographed by Edmund Sumner: this time Takasugi-an, a tea house in Chino, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.


The tea house is built atop two chestnut trees, cut from a nearby mountain and transported to the site, and is accessible only by free-standing ladders propped against one of the trees.


Following the tradition of tea masters, who maintained total control over the construction of their tea houses, Fujimori designed and built the structure for his own use.


The interior is covered with plaster and bamboo mats.


The name Takasugi-an means, “a tea house [built] too high.”


See more Japanese architecture in our Top Ten Japanese Projects

Here is some text about the Tea House, written by Yuki Sumner:


Chino City, Nagano Prefecture

Terunobu Fujimori, 2003-2004

The academician and architect, Terunobu Fujimori, has observed that a teahouse is “the ultimate personal architecture.” Its extreme compactness, which would at most accommodate four and a half tatami mats (2.7 square metres) or even just two tatami mats (1.8 square metres) of floor space, makes it feel as though it were an extension of one’s body, “like a piece of clothing.”


The tea masters traditionally maintained total control over the construction of these "enclosures," whose simplicity was their main concern. They therefore preferred not to involve an architect or even a skilled carpenter - an act considered as being too ostentatious. Following this tradition, Fujimori decided to build a humble teahouse for himself and by himself over a patch of land that belonged to his family.


His interest as an architect, however, lay more in pushing the limit and constraints of a traditional teahouse rather than pursuing the art of tea making, and as a result, he has created a highly expressive piece of architecture.


Takasugi-an, which literally means, “a teahouse [built] too high,” is indeed more like a tree house than a teahouse. In order to reach the room, the guests must climb up the freestanding ladders propped up against one of the two chestnut trees supporting the whole structure. The trees were cut and brought in from the nearby mountain to the site.


Shoes are taken off at the midway point. Once inside the room, which is padded simply with plaster and bamboo mats, the architect’s adventurous spirit gives way to the serenity more suited to the purpose of making tea and calming one’s mind.


The room displays a large window that frames the perfect bird’s eyes’ view of the town where Fujimori grew up. It effectively replaces kakejiku (a picture scroll) that would indicate clues appropriate to the time of the year in traditional teahouses. This kakejiku not only displays the cyclical seasonal changes but also the profound irreversible changes taking place in provincial towns like Chino.


Also visible in the distance is Fujimori’s very first project, Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum. The architect’s penchant for the personal, vernacular, and everyday is particularly evident here in this swaying teahouse.


Posted on Thursday March 12th 2009 at 2:40 pm by Megan Wilton. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • How inspiring! What a delight! Another example of following a creative idea regardless of how impossible it seems.

  • I find that many architects who design their own tree houses do it precisely to test the limits of what can be done. I saw one not far away that was built on stilts over 100 feet high, with one of the stilts starting not in the ground, but at the top of a young 50 foot tree. The whole thing was guyed back to several places with cables, otherwise it would not have been possible. So kudos to architects who inspire us all, even if we would never built something like that ourselves…

  • very wabi-sabi.

  • Frank M.

    Do you mind if I use your bathroom?
    You say you have an out house? Oh, and it’s on the next tree. How high is the outhouse?

  • This is a perfect house for BIG kids at heart…. COOL!!

  • Creative design and inspiring that he took the time to build his idea.

  • bbb

    He has built one inside the V&A museum in London, I went inside and had pretend tea with a little girl, brilliant!

  • Ale

    Its an awsome living space. My main concern is that the trees do not show signs of life. All the foliage has been eliminated. If these trees are dead, how long will it be until the heartwood gets exposed and starts to rot. The structural stability of a tree house greatly depends on the trees overall health. When building any kind of structure on a tree, there should be as little damage to the tree as posible. Hopefully the trees selected for this tree house have dense wood. Maybe this tree house lasts forever and i am just talking a lot of nonsense. Time should tell.

  • Pepe

    Miyazaki flavour :)

  • Terunobu

    I just like saying "Terunobu".

  • Taradiddle

    Very Studio Ghibli but don’t anybody sneeze.