This Chinese teahouse has an unlikely inspiration: a Romanian sculptor

Beijing – In East Asia, where interior architects have built a reputation for favouring minimal, pared-down interiors à la Muji, Shanghai-based Sò Studio pushes the norm. In its latest project, théATRE, a 35-sq-m teahouse in Beijing, Sò Studio channels Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși to produce a space at once sculptural, tactile and atmospheric.

Brâncuși is most famously known for his abstractionist sculptures – in 1927, a now-historic trial was conducted in the US to determine whether his Bird in Space could be considered a manufactured object or a work of art (the judge eventually ruled the latter). Brâncuși often worked within a neutral palette of natural materials such as stone, metal and wood. His work toggled between plump, sometimes exaggerated depictions of organic forms, and expressively carved pieces stacked in aggregate.

In théATRE, the Brâncuși references are ample: there is, for one, the sort of material cohesion found in the artist’s work. By using several different white textures in Theatre, and the occasional blue accent, the café avoids sterility. Three different types of white stone, the off-white façade curtain and the white metal-lined counter add a sense of visual depth and contrast to the space.

Like Brâncuși’s sculptures, Sò Studio’s chairs are formally expressive – some generously proportioned and plump. Like a gallerist, Sò Studio uses light to dramatize form, whether to cast shadows against the space’s tropical plant collection, or exaggerate an armchair’s proportions.

Sò Studio covered two-thirds of the façade with an opaque sheet of glass. Full-length curtains along the façade ‘window’ offer privacy when drawn. When the curtains are open, people and plants shift in and out of focus behind the mottled glass, hinting at the life within.

Location 269 Wangfujing St, Dong Dan, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China

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