Architecture Program


Date of this Version



Published in Interiors 4:3 (2013), pp. 229-247; doi: 10.2752/204191213X13817427789190


Copyright © 2013 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Used by permission.


Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591) was a tea master who consecutively served Japan’s two warlords in the turbulent feudal era. Rikyū synthesized wabi tea into ethics and aesthetics by applying it to every aspect of the ceremony, from the tea setting to the physical environment, and from the manner of making and drinking tea to the way of interacting with the environment. By producing artifacts and environments that clearly showcased the incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent nature of their physical aspects, Rikyū succeeded in guiding tea participants to the ontological contemplation of their own imperfect and transient existence. Henri Lefebvre (1901- 1991) and Jürgen Habermas (1929-) both find a deterioration of human values in modernized societies and seek a reconciliation in the study of the everyday. Rikyū’s ethics and aesthetics offer instruction on how to find the meaning of our existence in a simple act of sustenance.