Architects: NORM Architects
- Year: 2021
- Partner Architects: Sofie Thorning, Peter Eland
- Architect: Zihan Zhao
- City: Xiamen
- Country: China
Text description provided by the architects. Entering the new BASAO Tea Lounge in Xiamen, China, one senses an instant change in pace, when the bustling cityscape is replaced by a calming acoustic. As natural light filters through from the outside and highlight the subtle colors and rich textures of the carefully selected materials, the space feels warm and welcoming. Just like the many scents of tea are vibrant and natural, so are the materials that make up the store, and combined with subtle storytelling as well as a curated architectural framing, the space feels rooted in its local surroundings.
Merging not only tradition and contemporaneity, but also retail, café, and rituals of ancient tea ceremonies, the new tea store encapsulates the entire encounter and experience of BASAO tea – honoring quality of life in the simple things, pure and meaningful daily amenities.
Taking inspiration from the writings of Baisao, a Japanese monk of the Ōbaku School of Zen Buddhism, who became famous for traveling around Kyoto selling tea – and from whom BASAO took their name – we have created a multifunctional tea store in the streets of Xiamen. With room for quiet contemplation, the space is a clear antidote to the fast-paced on-the-go culture, instead of immersing its visitors in the calming sounds of tea being prepared, poured, and enjoyed.
Carefully considering the sense of touch, the experience of the space becomes an interplay of textures and temperatures in combination with contrasting polished and raw surfaces. The differing textures play an important role in highlighting distinctive features, as the contrast between rough and solid or soft and hard becomes even more noticeable than if one of them were void.
Sensing the purity of tea and its close relationship to nature is best portrayed using natural materials. The inherent colors and tactual sensation found in the chosen terracotta tiles, Chinese stone, oak wood, metals, and fabrics are both highlighted and toned down when combined with each other and bring an authenticity to the space that is unmatched by artificial materials and paints.
Curated shelves and podiums display beautiful cups and canisters alongside all kinds of tea, while handmade objects are displayed with a note about the making and use – illuminated to bring out texture and color, inviting visitors to touch and explore. When interpreting key elements of tea culture and local features into contemporary variations, the setting is free to take unlimited forms while remaining relevant and recognizable.
In order to achieve altered levels of privacy, moments of surprise when exploring the space and a clear definition of functions, the space is not only layered through the use of light but just as much with various architectural elements and materials, creating different settings for different occasions; slip into an inbuilt sofa, gently cushioned or choose a reclined chair with armrests to lean back and read a book; engage and study the knowing staff and be part of the everyday tea ceremonies at the grandiose stone counter.
To be present and at ease, letting go of everyday haste requires individual comfort. Only then you will fully engage in the ‘spirit of the tea.’
The use of local and natural materials turns every store into its own, as they are intriguingly unpredictable and will always result in unique tonal palettes. Combined with subtle storytelling of local features, a BASAO store will always be local, even when global.