The Rockview Tea House is located at Tashan Park, a natural landscape park in Weihai that is open to the public for free. In the 1970s and 80s, people quarried in Tashan Mountain and left several stone pits, which are called “Shiwozi” in the local area. The local government planned to transform these deserted places into parks to serve for the people. And the location of the project is in one of these stone pits.
Because of the quarrying, the originally continuous and plants-covered hillside is cut into a giant rock that forms a unique landscape at the site together with the surrounding locust forest, which is especially beautiful after winter snows when the landscape is like a delicate ink-and-wash painting. To put up a building in such a place, I believe the most important thing is to reserve the sense of “desolation”, which in fact is a primitive and charming state endowed by nature and so is impossible to be replaced by artificial works. Therefore, in order to retain this state to the maximum extent, the interference of construction should be managed with extreme care.
The building is at the southwest corner of the site where the landform is relatively flat. Starting from plans, the outline of the building, which is in the form of broken lines, originated from the natural forms of trees and rocks at the place; the position of trees and rocks naturally decides the plan of the building. From the sectional view, the building is half sunk in the site. By using the elevation difference at the site, the design sets up a slope connecting the building roof with the site, through which the roof becomes a viewing deck for tourists to appreciate the rock. The main interior space is hidden under the deck that is accessible via several steps beneath. The interior space is defined by several volumes formed by stonewalls. All of the structural elements are hidden within these six volumes, turning the tea house into a pillar-free space with wall as the definitive factor that divides the space into different functions – service, storeroom, restroom, etc. More importantly, each stone volume is also a chamber. When the sliding doors and windows are opened and hidden into the chambers, the border between interior and exterior spaces disappears, and the rock outside becomes a framed view to the interior space. At the same time, with the doors and windows concealed, the building is reduced to a cave that is constituted by several giant rocks and a roof, making it completely integrated with the surrounding environment and bringing people a strong primitive feeling. In addition, two inner courtyards, which are designed to protect existing trees, interweave with the interior space, introducing trees into the interior view and providing more rhythms for the changes between interior and exterior spaces.
Seen from afar, the horizontally extending roof interweaves with the vertical lines of the woods. The sense of suspension generated from the rising structure creates an aloof “lightness” between the roof and the site, which alleviates the heaviness of the material used; meanwhile, the stonewall underneath is concealed, which weakens the massy sense of the building.
Heavy in appearance, the building in fact is constructed with steel; because it is difficult to transport heavy materials to the site, light and precast structures are more suitable for this project. The specially designed shallow base also reflects the intention of reducing the impact on the trees and surrounding environment. By using rusted steel plates and stones as the primary materials, a sense of time is created via the brown rust on the steel plates, which corresponds to the brownish red rock that has experienced years of wind erosion at the site. The wall stones were obtained from local quarries. These quarry stones from site cleaning and base excavation respond to the surrounding environment in a natural, undecorated way. Moreover, the choosing of materials such as wooden doors and stone pavements also stresses their natural quality, so as to integrate the building with the natural environment at the site.