A Traditional Japanese Tea Hut & Ceremony is Floated on the Chicago River.


The transparent tea house known as "True Emptiness" grew out of a desire to allow people to see through the walls of a traditional tea hut and view the intimacy of the Japanese tea ceremony taking place within. Creating this structure has taken me literally on the ride of a lifetime floating under the bridges and skyscraper canyons along the Chicago River. At sunrise on a crisp autumn morning, like a leaf fallen from a tree and landing on the river, True Emptiness floated with the current while host and guests shared a simple bowl of tea.

This simple and humble piece of architecture has brought more interest and notoriety than anything I have done. Made entirely of the most common of materials, PVC piping, it is completely transportable, travels on airplanes disassembled in "tea bags", and assembles in 30 minutes. It is a precise replica of the bones of the most famous tea house in Japan, the national treasure known as Yuin, located in Kyoto.

As may be expected of such a novel structure, it has been met with some controversy by purists used to seeing tea houses made of mud and clay and bamboo with thatched roofs. My position is that these traditional huts were built using the everyday materials available to tea masters during their unique and historic time and place. Their genius was to take these mundane and ordinary materials and transform them into extraordinary spaces. Concrete, glass, steel, tin, canvas, and yes, PVC piping, are the ordinary materials of our contemporary world. Using ordinary PVC piping in this way provides the uncanny twist with the mundane that breaths life into Tea and in my view keeps the tradition of tea architecture truly alive.

Tea societies teaching the traditional Japanese tea procedure have invited me to do talks and presentations on tea hut architecture in conjunction with demonstrating the beauty and intimacy of the ceremony within True Emptiness. True Emptiness and I have been invited to The Parliament of The World's Religions, The American Institute of Architects and International Association of Architects conventions. True Emptiness was installed in The California Museum of Art. Images of True Emptiness have been featured in books and publications in Japan, Europe and the U.S.


Tea Hut 2
Tea Hut 4
Tea Hut 3
Tea Hut 5