Substance Architecture


Gong Fu Tea

Des Moines, Iowa

This tea house is part of Des Moines’ up and coming East Village district. The simple, straightforward and serene series of spaces is seen as a calming alternative to coffee houses. A community sitting space on the street is followed by the long retail counter—flanked by two display walls: a wooden grid for a hundred tea canisters, and a display for teapots and tea samples. Beyond, is screened seating and finally a private tea room. The floor plane expresses movement with a slate pathway, and repose with bamboo flooring. The green color benefits the calming mood.

The existing structure had none of the area's historic character, and the 1970's renovation of its exterior façade could not be altered. The new facade floats in front of this faux stone elevation—an origami sign panel. The materials inside and out were selected to set the unique character of the tea house. Simple and straightforward, they also required durability and cost effectiveness due to a very limited project budget.


Excellence in Design Award, 2007
American Institute of Architects - Central States Region


Iowa Architect, 07:262

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