Shi-An, The Paper Teahouse


WordsClémence Leleu

Courtesy of Katagiri Architecture + Design

At Shi-An, you’ll find two traditional Japanese arts under one roof. Kazuya Katagiri of the architectural firm Katagiri Architecture + Design, marries the finesse of the Japanese tea ceremony and the delicateness of origami with a teahouse made from washi paper, adorned with hundreds of sheets of paper for guests to admire.

‘This tea house is inspired by the minimalism and the clean lines of Japanese beauty’, explains Kazuya Katagiri.

Highlighting Japanese craftsmanship

The designer opted for washi paper to construct the space, created by craftsmen using natural fibers for over 1,300 years. Each sheet measures 500mm x 1000mm and is folded 8 times to create triangular blocks which are then interlocked without the need for glue or any other adhesives.

The teahouse is accessed through a small entrance which requires visitors to duck their heads and there is a small opening in the ceiling allowing for natural light to illuminate the space.

An adaptable space

‘The cellular structure of the house might be compared to a person. Like a living body, it continually adapts to its environment’, explains Katagiri.

While the portable house measures 2.1 metres tall and 1.85 metres wide, the space is completely adaptable. The origami techniques used allow for this small pavilion to be put up and down with great speed and ease and it doesn’t require any specific foundations in order to be stable.

An artistic achievement

Shi-An was the winner of the 2017 RTFA Awards, having been exhibited for the first time in 2016 at the Nijo-Jo castle in Kyoto, one of the most prestigious castles built in the early 17th century and a UNESCO world heritage site. Following the success of Katagiri’s creation, it then went on tour across Japan.

More recently, the designer has created a small structure called the Paper Cloud in Montpellier, France. While this new work differs from Shi-An slightly, in that it is not created from Origami, there are similarities in its construction, for the Paper Cloud is also without glue or adhesive. The artist gathered 2000 cylinders of laminated paper, inserted inside one another in order to create a roofless cube structure, which allows for daylight to reflect across its facades, giving it an infinitely light appearance.

Courtesy of Katagiri Architecture + Design

Courtesy of Katagiri Architecture + Design

Courtesy of Katagiri Architecture + Design

Courtesy of Katagiri Architecture + Design

Courtesy of Katagiri Architecture + Design