Thursday, July 18, 2013

Intimate vs Gigantic: The Temaeza Challenge



More than 15 years ago, I had the privilege to make tea for Eric Lloyd Wright and Mary Wright atop the construction site of their home-to-be (aka "Wright Ranch") overlooking the Malibu Cove and the Pacific Ocean. Eric is Frank Lloyd Wright's grandson and a Taliesin Fellow, meaning that he studied with his grandfather in Oak Park, Wisconsin, and Arizona. Mary is an accomplished artist and taught painting in Japan for many years in the 1950s. The couple is deeply committed to maintaining sustainable lifestyle very close to the land as the events of Wright Organic Resource Center testify. 

Now in his 80s, Eric continues to design and build in the signature "organic architecture" style of his grandfather, where building and surroundings engage each other to create a style of life akin to living with  nature, not merely in it. This house is the third century of Wright architecture, yet the most "outstanding feature is that it, like the elements of a chaji, it is literally not out-standing. In this case, it cannot be seen from any roadWhen the structural concrete pour (walls, floor, internal supports) was completed, the adjacent hillside at the “back” of the building was pushed against the "back" wall, carpeted the roof, blended into the     profile of the second story and formed part of the wall of the entryway.  It is seamlessly connected to the earth.

It was on the top of the plywood for the roof that set up my goza, straw mat, and prepared to establish temaeza, the place where tea is made. I needed to have electrical power for my kama heating element, so they pulled one of the power cords from the construction site up the ladder to the top. The cord was so long that I decided to coil it neatly into what I decided was my kare sansui (raked sand) garden.


The biggest challenge, however was to determine which way the guests would face. The ocean vista was remarkable, but I realized, too big for the intimacy of temae, so I had them face a set of rebars set against the hillside, looking very much like a furosaki byobu of bamboo. 

It’s a powerful decision to turn one’s back to hugeness, but essential to establish a barrier to cultivate the notion of intimacy and camaraderie

There is a reason that the nijiriguchi, small hatchway entrance to a tea hut, is one of the key elements of chashitsu design: to draw into narrow-focus the mind and heart toward the matter at hand. 



In chanoyu, large becomes small; small becomes large. 
Like organic architecture, 
it all drops 
away, 
anyway.