Steeped in history, the Beijing Tea House is a tasteful blend of past and present. Located opposite the Forbidden City's East Gate, the invitation-only tea salon was designed by Tokyo-based architect Kengo Kuma. A connoisseur of construction materials, Kuma fashioned the 2,700-square-foot structure from four different types of polyethylene blocks—a contemporary take on traditional Beijing-style bricks—and assembled them in a classic Chinese lattice pattern. In addition to insulating against the city's bone-chilling winters, this translucent material admits soft daylight, recalling the papered windows of the old Siheyuan-style residences nearby while imparting a futuristic glow to the whole interior.
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