Fallahpour Tea Hut
Hague, New York
The tea hut was designed for a private property alongside Lake George in the Adirondacks. The form was derived from a series of site constraints that clarified and focused the concept: The structure rests on a tiny 8' x 8' concrete block foundation that was required by zoning standards. The locally-milled timber structure above the foundation cantilevers from this foundation to create a series of seat niches. Openings in these niches are arranged to frame views of Lake George.
Commissioned Project: 2011
Meditation Hut III “Victor”
Meditation and water are wedded forever. (Herman Melville)
The owners of a forested property wanted a quiet space to observe the surrounding nature. A naturalized understory leads to a visually kinetic approach ramp that contrasts to the subtle interior. Entry to the hut is through an obscured door detailed like the cedar walls. Inside an oversized window opposite the entrance immediately pulls the view back outside to a composed view of mature trees. Adjacent to this is a miniature tea cabinet. A raised platform in the main space supports three tatami mats.
The location along the north pond edge allowed the development of several effluvial sensations. Throughout the day water reflections are projected onto the soffit. The roof channels rainwater to a central spout over the pond. A horizontal window in the tatami room frames a meditative fragment of water. The floor of glossy ebonized birch has the sensation of a deep still pool - the grass tatami mats become an island within an island. The result is an interior volume that is protective and serene but alive with subtle energy.
Commissioned Project: 2008
Design Associate: Jesse Haas
Meditation Hut II “Le Cadeau”
The hut is located in back corner of a residential garden, nestled in a mature landscape. For the designer-owner-builder, the experience of its creation was a retreat both from work and into work - the hands-on construction process in itself was cathartic.
Much like a wrapped gift, a single material - white cedar shingles - cover the entire exposed exterior surface. The hand cut shingles were layered and detailed to create a simple archetypal house shape - like a child's first attempt to represent a dwelling in drawing form. The shingles are left to weather to silver gray.
The interior is unadorned, except for three tatami mats that rest on the black stained structural base. Reflective white walls hover above this base to create an environment of simplicity and lightness. Small windows were placed throughout the surface to cross-ventilate and to frame specific views. A casement window in the lower southwest corner frames colorful plants; an even smaller window cut into the door frames the head of a Buddha sculpture that greets visitors along the approach path. The surrounding trees filter restrained light into the space throughout the day. The freestanding, floating structure softly resonates with the songs of birds from adjacent trees.
Research Project: 2004
Meditation Hut I
The meditation hut is located in the backyard of a small residence in a working-class neighborhood in central Illinois. In it’s design, construction, and purpose, it was conceived as both a form and a process that encouraged the mind to focus, to center, and to transcend. The architect completed the construction himself - clearing, digging, anchoring, framing, wiring, cladding, and finishing. The hut was built entirely from off-the-shelf products in order to assimilate it into its vernacular setting. The experience of its creation was a retreat both to and from work.
The size and proportion of a traditional tatami mat provides the human-scaled module for the floor plane, the fenestration, and the roof. The large windows are oriented east and west to create a continuous play of sunlight across the v-shaped ceiling throughout the day.
Through material selection, formal analogy, detailing and arrangement, architecture, landscape, and meaning are woven into a single composition. The Hut is raised off the ground to allow the garden to flow underneath. Rainwater collected from the v-shaped roof fills the ground pool underneath the small casement window to nourish the plant life. Collected water reflects sunlight into the room. A fountain provides meditative forground sound to mask the noise from a nearby road.
Research Project: 1998
Kamakura Japanese Restaurant, Champaign, Illinois
The tatami room is part of the transformation of a former automobile dealership into a 130-seat capacity restaurant. Concentric spatial layers separate the tatami room from the larger dining area, in order to create privacy without requiring doors. To clarify and enrich the space, each layer is identified by its unique earthy color. The result is an interpretation of traditional Japanese residential architecture. The horizontal emphasis of translucent screens, continuous horizontal bands of millwork, carefully directed lighting and shadows, and the overall room proportions create a peaceful, meditative dining environment.
One unique challenge in developing this space was to provide wheelchair accessibility to the floor seating. This was accomplished by constructing a removable infill box. When the box is in place, tatami seating wraps fully around the central table. When the box is removed, an accessible opening is created at the end of the table.
Commissioned Project: 1995
Associate Architect: Guy Hampel