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Acknowledged as a healthy beverage—which generates no sound while making, requires less water, and doesn’t leave any waste—Japanese green tea is without a doubt one of the ideal cups for seekers who’d like something to sip while enjoying their time peacefully.
As soon as the site for the KSANA Tea House flagship store was chosen, some distinctive location characteristics promptly shaped the conceptual ideas. The city vibe from the surrounding skyscrapers creates a dynamic ambiance in the neighborhood. Juti Klipbua, the founder of JUTI Architects and the lead architect of the KSANA project, told us that the owner has intended to let his customers achieve their mindfulness by using tea as a medium. Consequently, the term “trans-” swiftly came up.
“The tea here is cultivated in Kyoto, Japan. It is not just a regular green tea, but a ceremonial grade used in important ceremonies. When I first tried it, I was stunned and extraordinarily focused on the flavor for a moment due to its richness. This made me realize that a sip of tea can somehow bring us into another peaceful dimension,” said the architect. “The owner came up with the name KSANA, which means ‘a moment in time’ in Sanskrit. It’s also homophonic to the words ‘ขณะ’ (Kana) in Thai and ‘刹那’ (Setsuna) in Japanese, which both have the same meaning as their Sanskrit roots.”
KSANA Tea House has been attracting more than just the attention of the local citizens. This project is also in the spotlight on a global level; being a winner in the Kyoto Global Design Awards 2023’s Restaurant/Hotel/Bar category is excellent proof. Based on the judging criteria, the architect has his own point of view on how related his project is to each measure.
Even though the design of the KSANA project has such a distinctive plan, the unique white freeform fiberglass wall is not the feature that best expresses their artistic brilliance, according to the architect. “To me, the word ‘aesthetic’ is not only about what catches our eye, but the quality of space must also be valued. The space we’ve created for this project is a canyon-like cavity, wiggling and then getting narrower and narrower. I think this is one of the features that surprises our users. Many digital nomads return here after their first visit, especially on workdays. They may have felt that this is a little shelter to hide from the chaotic outside world,” said Juti.
Additionally, Juti told us that the project’s visual appeal was further enhanced by the combination of the carefully selected materials. Certain elements, such as stone cave-inspired fiberglass walls, white oak wood tables, and stainless-steel kitchenware, positively affect one another, contributing to the even more harmonious atmosphere of this tea house.
“During the construction process, a 1:1 model sculpture was built. We started with 3D programming, then CNC foam cutting, followed by scraping the foam sculpture with heated wire to create the canyon texture. In this manner, we could examine how each surface affects the lighting.”
Before working on this project, Juti had designed some products for a furniture brand. His connection expanded into the craftsman’s circle from that point on. Having a skilled sculptor involved in the project makes the work process more comprehensive. Every visible feature on the cave-like wall was initially constructed as a 1:1 model, and then precast pieces were assembled on site. This innovative method is a secret technique that brings a higher level of delicacy to the project.
Apart from the owner-hosted mindfulness workshops (such as sound therapy sessions, emotional therapeutic sessions, etc.), which are occasionally held at the KSANA Tea House, the atmosphere of this place during regular opening hours already has the efficiency to assist customers in discovering their mindfulness itself.
“We do hope that the nature-inspired artificial space will somehow awaken our users’ desire to explore a purely natural environment and find peacefulness, no matter where they are,” said the architect. “The challenge of convincing people to spend more time with nature will also be the core abstract plan of the future branches. Since packaged products of KSANA are also available, the owner has planned to encourage his customers to wander outdoors while carrying some tea packages in their pockets.”
Unlike KSANA Tea House, surrealist architecture is usually paired with futuristic architectural language rather than naturalism. With this fresh combination, the project can create a humble yet powerful impact on a societal level.
Juti stated, “There’s more to raising people’s appreciation of nature than just giving them direct encouragement. After experiencing the space we’ve provided, some of our customers may feel inspired to help save the planet. This is the outcome that surpasses our expectations. We didn’t plan for it when we first designed the project.”
Nobody can deny that any green materials, recycled or upcycled, are all critical to the global climate conditions of this century, but are they the only things it would take to create such a sustainable project?
“For us, the definition of ‘sustainability’ for a commercial space is more than just using environmentally friendly materials to reduce the carbon footprint. It also has to do with maintaining the longevity of architecture as much as possible so that neither renovation nor waste of materials occur too often. Our studio is serious about not creating fast-fashion architecture. In our perception, making the architecture as self-sufficient as possible is another definition of sustainability,” said Juti.
Speaking of functionality, each element in the project performs as it should. As a renowned architect, Juti has naturally already taken great care of all these essential components, but what if we go beyond actual use? The architect stated, “Operating the functional design is quite a challenging task. If we do not perceive it in a physical sense, the word ‘functionality’ in our context could be interpreted as a mental function. We expect that KSANA Tea House will perform as an entrance to another dimension, temporarily transferring our users to the hidden realm.”
‘Simplicity Elegance’ is the best term to describe JUTI Architects’ unique style. Instead of designing exaggerated architecture and interiors to attract the crowd hastily, Juti would rather keep things simple while letting his design resonate with its timeless beauty in silence. With laughter, he told us about receiving the award from KGDA this year. He said, “Getting the award actually causes me to even put more pressure on myself. I question whether I’ll be able to design the future branch of the KSANA Tea House as well as I did this time.