- théATRE by Sò Studio, taking tea in Beijing
The designers Jessica Wu and Mengjie Liu, founders of Sò Studio, based in Shanghai, refer to it as a “Modern Tea Ceremony House”, and with good reason. It is located on the 4th floor of the WF Central shopping mall on Wangfujing Street, the busiest shopping street in the capital of China, near the Forbidden City and the central business district.
In the hustle and bustle of a busy commercial backdrop like this, you need something special to stand out, so the designers decided to play the tranquillity card. The first thing they did was to open up the venue’s facades in order to connect one-third of the whole space directly with the exterior. This, of course, has the effect of intriguing passers-by because it gives them a glimpse of some of the interior details, like the lush indoor tea garden, which has been artistically distorted through the use of U-shaped glass, whose particular texture also creates a mottled image, with a kind of oil painting effect. Long white curtains are reminiscent of a stage in a theatre and add that touch of minimalist elegance that our collective imagination associates with the tea ceremony.
Once inside, guests are received by a masterful combination of eclectic furnishings, some sculptures inspired by the artist Constantin Brancusi and shades of white, played on four different textures. Three kinds of white stones strengthen the venue’s calmness and simplicity through different tones and reflections; while the exterior curtains and white metal streamers form the strongest contrast. All this creates a rarefied and resonant atmosphere, further emphasised by the lighting.
The creatives from Sò Studio came up with a special lighting design that underscores these material connections and gives guests some pleasant surprises. Starting with a warm, almost amber colour that can change in intensity and employing colour temperatures of 2700K and even 2200K, they have obtained different kinds of light that change to suit the time of day. Another reference to the theatre, where lighting is used to transform the stage scenes.
People looking for a more intimate experience, without a direct connection with the outside, can enjoy the VIP Room next to the bar. Here, like in the other areas, the wall is decorated with a literary quote connected with the world of tea. In this case, by the author Alice Walker: “Tea to the English is a really a picnic indoors”. This also nurtures the fusion between the different tea cultures, in keeping with the concept of the “Modern Tea Ceremony House”, and also with the idea of the “surreal tea garden”, as Sò Studio calls this project, where you can sip on a cup of tea in peace and quiet, before continuing your stroll along the bustling Wangfujing Street.
Design team: Sò Studio
Furniture brand: Cassina; MatzForm; Sancal
Lighting brand: &tradition
Lighting design: AILD
All images © Yuhao Ding, Elbe