|The Beauty of Japanese Architecture in Kansai|
Architectural Beauties from the Kansai District:
The Tea Room and the Sukiya Style
Research Institute for Cultural Asset & Architectural Design Co.Ltd.
The Formation of the "Tea Spirit" - The Tea Room
Japan is described as a country of wood, and the depth of the affinity and the keenness of the receptivity that the Japanese people have for wood are famous. As can be seen in the expression "plants and trees all have something to say", Japanese believe that trees have a soul and say they can sense spirits, or "kami", within them. It is trees that form the core which nurtures the sensibilities about nature held by the Japanese people.
It is thus natural for architecture in Japan to be based on wood. Many structures are made of wood, ranging from shrines and temples to palaces and homes, and in doing so grand structures have been created.
The tea room, which reached its pinnacle under SEN no Rikyu, offers a simple visage that is in accord with what might be described as a natural law. These structures seen at Myokian Taian in the town of Oyamazaki in Kyoto Prefecture, in a work known as Rikyu's great legacy are composed of roofs with light shingles, wood left in its natural state as logs and bark, and clay walls with the straw, mixed in to act as binding, left showing. Large enough for one tatami mat for the guest and one for the host (about 3.6 m2), the tea room leaves outside those elements often presented as "architecture" physical size, superior materials, and beautiful decorations, and instead puts a premium solely on the form of the wood used in its building and the beauty of the knots in that wood, with materials chosen one by one based on a discriminating esthetic sense.
The wood employed in tea rooms comes from a variety of trees, including Japanese cedar, red pine, white cedar, chestnut, and bamboo. Because of this, a process called coloring was employed, wherein all of the wood sections of the building were coated with a pigment mixed from a red cosmetic called "ni" and soot. This paint was applied so that the wood became nearly black while at the same time knots and other natural features in the wood remained visible. The clay walls were likewise blackened with soot. It is a paradoxical form of expression that modified or hid color tones, but it also produced the effect of highlighting the hanging scrolls, flowers, and tea utensils.
Designs from the Tea Rooms - the Sukiya Style
Enclosed as it was by clay walls, the tea room was a novel structure in Japan, with its tradition of open living spaces historically dictated by the conditions of summer. In its closed appearance, one senses somehow that it may also be an expression of something non-Japanese. At the same time, the four elements of society, ceremony, religion, and art were added to an extremely mundane and quotidian act, thus creating the extraordinary environment of Cha no Yu, the tea ceremony.
Shoin architecture up to that point had been generally formalized, involving adding a concave curve to roofs as was done with temples and shrines and covering everything with decoration, from such indoor structural components as press boards, floors, shelves, and the special built-in desk to metal fittings such as transom work, door knobs, and covers for nail heads. The roof of the sukiya style added a convex curve to this architecture, giving it a lighter feeling, and the style left its mark on everything from internal structural elements to detailing by giving rise to a wide range of variation. Japanese residential spaces are open in accordance with tradition, but plain logs and bark-based materials are used widely, and colored clay walls are often painted, creating richly hued interiors. Tea room and sukiya architecture give expression to a gentle human individuality solely by using natural materials. This style of architecture also follows the strict ethics of the tea spirit and the tea ceremony and conceals within it a sophisticated and pure artistic form.