with its fuzhou teahouse, studio neri & hu expresses inspiration from the nearby jinshan temple, a unique icon of the chinese city. the historic structure stands as a rare example of a temple structure built in the middle of a river in china, and has become a lasting image unmistakably identified with the city of fuzhou. conceived as an urban artifact, the teahouse, dubbed the ‘relic shelter’ internalizes a piece of distinct heritage at a time when rapid new development has eroded traditional culture and identity. the project stands as an enclosure for a chinese artifact: the wooden structure of a high-ranking qing dynasty official’s residence, replete with ornamental carvings and intricate joinery. relocated from anhui to its new home in fuzhou, the hui-style structure is enshrined as the inhabitable centrepiece of a new teahouse.
images by hao chen
envisioned as a house atop a rock, the neri & hu-designed fuzhou teahouse is elevated above a rammed concrete base. meanwhile, its sweeping copper roof echoes the roofline of the enclosed architectural relic. its core material, rammed concrete, is a modern homage to the traditional earthen dwellings of the region, emphasizing a raw monumentality. visitors are presented with two images of the building upon approach — the upright silhouette of the form, and its mirrored reflection duplicated in the surrounding pool of water.
a series of contrasts plays out among neri & hu’s fuzhou teahouse s visitors enter the grand hall where the structure of the ancient residence is situated — bright and dark, light and heavy, coarse and refined, the old and new exist in dialogue with each other. sky wells penetrate the roof, bringing natural light into the depths of the enclosure and illuminating the priceless artefact on display. only upon reaching the mezzanine does the structural configuration of the building begin to reveal itself. the hovering metal roof is lifted 50 cm off the solid base by copper-clad trusses to introduce a sliver of continuous illumination around its periphery. wrapping itself around the historical wooden structure, the mezzanine space allows visitors to appreciate intricate carpentry details at eye level.