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Manhattan Tea House

2013-14

The Manhattan Tea House is a conceptual proposal for a tea factory, cafe, pavilion, landscaped gardens and piers, on a waterfront site in Battery Park, Lower Manhattan.The Tea House builds on America’s tea history and reinvigorates the New York waterfront. The contoured landscape links the Battery Gardens to the Cafe, Tea House, and Tea Pavilion and new piers. The factory, including tea warehouse, blending and flavouring rooms and tea archive, is spread across all four floors of the primary building, linking with the public tea shop, tasting bar, formal tea rooms and rooftop terrace.

In order to obtain a first hand understanding of the building’s programme, research involved three key ventures: visiting Twinings Tea Factory in Andover; visiting the Darwen Terracotta factory in Preston; and to design and make my own tea cups. In this way, the ‘Tessellating Cups’ and ‘Manhattan Dishes’ work began to develop, as an interlocking system of ceramic modules that would form the undulating skin of the building, resonating between the process of making and the experience of drinking tea.

The cups were developed through a process of testing and experimentation. Firstly, an existing cup was slip cast with a 6-part plaster mood to create multiple variations on the same form. Secondly, a bespoke design was developed, with foam moulds milled out using a CNC machine. Plaster moulds were then cast from the foam, and finally porcelain slip-casts made from the dry plaster molds, and given a translucent glaze. A third stage halved the scale of the cups for mould-making, stoneware slip-casting and glazing, in order to test tessellation and stacking.

Finally, the design advanced to develop a series of interlocking cup-blocks, moving from 2D tessellation to 3d tessellation: from the single cup, to a double cup, to a triple cup. The glazed slip-cast ceramic pieces create a stackable wall system, as iterations of the single, hand-held tea cup.

This project led to the following ceramic works: Manhattan Dishes, Tessellating Originals, Tessellating Collection.