Zen on the Seine: Jugetsudo
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 6/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
firm: kengo kuma & associates
On the corner of a small intersection in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Parisians stop and stare quizzically, peering through the windows of a shop. Where Provençal pillows and totes used to be displayed for sale—the premises were once occupied by a branch of Les Olivades—passersby are surprised to note a thicket of bamboo descending from above. This serenely surreal vision represents a couple of firsts: the first project completed in France by Kengo Kuma & Associates and the Jugetsudo tea salon's first location outside Japan.
Jugetsudo, which means a place to watch the moon, is the brand of green teas launched by Maruyama Nori, a 155-year-old family-run Tokyo company specializing in edible dried seaweed. The founder's great-great-granddaughter Maki Maruyama, director of the Paris salon, asked Kuma for a design both contemporary and traditional, in harmony with nature and the Zen spirit of the Japanese tea ceremony. The ambience was to encourage "not only the selling of tea but also cordial communication with customers," Kengo Kuma says.
The bamboo thicket was his main concept for the 800-square-foot project. "In the thicket floats a different kind of air from that in our daily lives," he explains. Literally, of course, it's the thicket itself that's floating: 650 stalks of natural Japanese bamboo suspended from the ceiling. Although they're installed in a regular grid pattern, the different lengths create an impression of undulations.
Kyoto temples, where the flooring is often salvaged from roofs, inspired Kuma's choice of slate-gray sandstone for the floor tile on Jugetsudo's ground level. Running around the perimeter is a trough filled with paler gray river rocks—a miniature rock garden. Contributing yet another shade of gray is phosphate-finished steel, one of Kuma's favorite materials. Steel shelves, suspended in the windows or built into the sidewall, offer canisters of tea along with exquisite teapots, cups, and other ceramic wares.
Warmer neutrals play a part as well. Full-height walls of rice paper appear in two different textured patterns in identical shades of creamy white. In the center of the room, tea and Japanese sweets are served to customers seated along one side of a counter, a single knot-free slab of the blond hinoki cypress revered in Japan and often used in temples and shrines. Durable, lustrous, and fragrant, the wood "fits harmoniously with the idea of a tea salon," Kuma says. Set into the counter is a large hot plate for boiling water in an ornate cast-iron kettle.
Demonstrations of a full tea ceremony take place on Saturdays down in the cellar, reached by a bamboo-lined rear staircase. Kuma left the exposed sandstone walls and barrel vault almost untouched, simply installing halogen fixtures, a multilevel cypress platform-table for the ceremony, and an ornamental stand of bamboo in a corner.
The architect himself is a dedicated tea drinker. "It's healing," he says. "It quiets my mind." How about café au lait? Out of the question.
Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen.
Clockwise from top: Either built in or suspended on stainless-steel cable, shelving is phosphate-finished steel, while the wall panel at the rear of the shop is rice paper adhered to glass. Steps of Italian sandstone lead to the cellar. The salon is housed in a building on the Left Bank. Halogen fixtures downlight tea canisters and ceramics.
From top: Tea ceremonies are performed on Saturdays in the sandstone cellar. A ladle rests on a steel bowl.
FROM FRONT KNOLL: STOOLS (GROUND LEVEL). THROUGHOUT MCH ARNAUD MONTIGNY: ARCHITECT OF RECORD. ISHII CONCEPTION OFFICE NETWORK: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. KITOKI: WOODWORK.