China’s tea culture has a long-standing history that dates back to the Tang dynasty, more than eleven centuries ago. Since then traditional teahouses have become a common fixture in Chinese cities and villages as a place for drinking tea, relaxation, and entertainment. While the contemporary establishments usually adhere to a traditional or minimalist aesthetic, it is always refreshing to see architects and designers approaching the concept of a teahouse through a more creative and innovative lens, as is the case for Icha Chateau’s new luxury restaurant and tea bar in Shanghai.
Housed in a mid-19th-century colonial heritage building in a newly developed outdoor shopping district, local architecture and interior design practice Spacemen have found inspiration in the rolling hills of tea plantations to create a sculptural space of subtle luxury and modern sophistication.
The stern sensibility of the immaculately renovated exterior of the heritage building belies the wondrous playfulness of the interiors but the designers have artfully incorporated a few hints of what lies inside. Angled brass slats elegantly framing the glazed arches provide shading from the midday sun but also bestow upon the brick facades as sense of understated opulence. Likewise, the swirling, teapot-like structure that fronts the outdoor tea bar adds a dash of flair to the sedate pedestrian area while at night it becomes a dazzling beacon of light.
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In the main dining area, guests are seated below a sublime, gleaming canopy made out of 35,000 meters of gold chains that form a series of undulating planes; the disembodied landscape is an allusion to the scenic topography of endless rolling hills where tea is cultivated.