Photos by Brittney Reinholtz
J-Tea International’s teahouse, designed by Portland architect Ben Waechter, has captured local, national and international attention. Waechter received a 2011 Portland American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honor Award for J-Tea, the highest design award granted. Notably, the project has also been covered in DWELL, Gray Magazine and numerous online sources. In October 2011, J-Tea’s building was featured in Delicate: New Food Culture, a new book of international food culture and design published by Gestalten in Berlin.
Four elements drove J-Tea’s transformation from a small residential bungalow to a modern, visually poignant commercial space, according the AIA jury. “[J-Tea consists of] only four components, each rendered beautifully: The canopy, the porch, the tea-walls and the tea-bar are all equally and carefully considered in relationship to the experience of tea.” White aluminum louvers create a cloud-like canopy above the entryway and the cedar laminate aperture-like opening draws customers in from the street. Inside, patrons can sample tea around a sleek, customized tea bar in space flooded by natural light from a series of skylights. Three tea walls line the interior, featuring colorful packaged tea and delicate tea ware. The AIA jury also noted that, “The plainer quality of the assemblage makes it feel like you are walking through the layers of a painting. [The building is] lively and light with minimal means."
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