Bamboo Provides Natural Medium For Floating Teahouse

Tea is not just another hot drink in China, it’s a way of life — something valuable enough that a building can be built just for drinking it slowly in a contemplative natural setting. Such is the case for the Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse recently opened on the edge of, and partially floating in, a lake in Shiqiao Garden northwest of Shanghai.

Designed by architect Sun Wei of the HWCD firm, the teahouse uses overlapping grids of horizontal and vertical bamboo poles, which grow abundantly in the area and are fast-growing. Left in their natural state, the harvested poles create semi-transparent screens between the various courtyard areas, providing easy ventilation and partial shade for the tea-sipping guests.

HWCD's Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse provides a contemplative, natural setting to enjoy the favorite drink in China. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

HWCD’s Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse provides a contemplative, natural setting to enjoy the favorite drink in China. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

Viewed from the lake itself, the Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse resembles a simple square block of bamboo poles that appear to grow directly out of the lake. Inside the bamboo walls, however, is a series of labyrinthine courtyards and wooden-plank patios, each of which provides a view of water and sky. Some rooms on the outer walls also provide views of the surrounding lake.

The interior courtyard at dusk. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

The interior courtyard at dusk. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

While the bamboo walls and screens are arranged at right angles to one another in rectangular patterns, many of them are overlain by a permeable trellis of widely spaced bamboo poles that are set diagonally atop the walls. In full sun, the poles create sharp, sometimes disorienting patterns of striped shadows that fall on the visitors below. The overall effect for each individual patio is one of enclosure, yet the space is fully open to the elements and most of the daylight.

One of the brick meeting rooms at the floating teahouse. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

One of the brick meeting rooms at the floating teahouse. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

The 4,300-square-foot collection of floating courtyards is anchored, physically and stylistically, by a cluster of rectangular brick buildings that can be used for parties, presentations and meetings. These brick structures, with glassed-in enclosures, help retain heat in the winter, thus reducing energy costs.

Light glows through the bamboo walls across the lake at night. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

Light glows through the bamboo walls across the lake at night. Image by TE Photography via HWCD.

At night, the patterns of light and shadow are reversed. The interior courtyard is bathed in cove lighting, made more golden by the light reflected off the bamboo. From the outside, the gaps between the bamboo stalks allow light to bleed through and add more visually striking patterns across the water.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.