The Nancy L. Ellis Tea House is an educational exhibit to display and perform traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. The starting point for the design solution was to research and understand not only the architectural elements of a traditional tea house, but also the philosophical and cultural histories of those elements, and how they interact, support, and influence the preparation and service of tea.
The challenge was to marry a traditional tea ceremony to an indigenous Southwest Florida architecture that must meet wind loading, flood, energy, and accessibility requirements.
To accomplish this, the architect began a regional search for austere structures built with common materials. In the end, the design drew inspiration from the materiality of the galvanized metal fishing shacks of Pine Island and from Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House. Many of the tenets of tea house design are sympathetic to those of the Sarasota School- direct forms, openness, and a connection with the landscape. For the inside of the tea house, the architect sourced local materials that were expressive of the region's history. The interior wood, for example, is river-recovered cypress logs felled at the turn of the century by loggers working on the Withlacoochee River.
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