Shi-An: A Tea House Made From 4000 Units of Origami

all photos by Takuya Watanabe

Shi-an is a mobile tea house constructed entirely from folded paper without the use of bolts or adhesives. The entirely free-standing structure was designed by Tokyo-based architect Kazuya Katagiri who, with the help of designer Akinori Inuzuka, came up with a method of folding a large piece of washi paper into a single interlocking unit with 2 pockets and 2 arms.

Each piece of washi paper measured about 1 x 3.3 ft (500 x 1000 mm) and was folded 8 times to create the interlocking shape. 4000 of these units were produced to create a dome-shaped teahouse titled Shi-an (紙庵, or “paper tea house”) which was installed at Nijo-jo Castle in Kyoto back in 2016. “The nomadic small tea house embodies the idea of Japanese simplified beauties,” says the architect, while at the same time being reminiscent of a cellular organism, multiplying as its cells divide and grow.

As seen in the photos below, a similar structure was also presented at Art Basel Hong Kong.


  1. Bruce Boatwright

    April 5, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve forgotten how I stumbled upon this treasure you send me, but every time you appear in my inbox and I open the different links, my blood pressure drops. I sigh in relief. You take me places I’d never be able to visit, show me things I’d likely never otherwise see, and enlighten me. Thank you so much.

  2. Receiving Spoons during this worldwide crisis is so relieving to me! I love all the glimpses of life in Japan. I can just imagine other countries being just as remarkable! The origami tea houses make me wonder what kind of masks are being designed to protect people from germs. Thanks so much and BE SAFE in Brooklyn!

  3. This design is the same as an origami swan I once made–imagine the same fold but five or ten times smaller and hundreds of pieces instead of thousands 🙂 So glad to see it being employed on a furniture/room-size scale! Elegantly, beautifully simple. Perhaps I will build my own shi-an someday. 🙂

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