Looking for the best commercial building in all of Europe? It just happens to be a tea room.
The 2017 European Architecture Awards, presented by Archi-Europe, bestowed top commercial honors to Greece’s To Tsai Tea Room in May.
Archi-Europe is an international architecture group with more than 185,000 members. For the first time ever, the coalition decided to present awards to projects in various sectors. “When starting a project, architects are faced with numerous technical, legal and environmental constraints which makes their job extremely complex to achieve,” Archi-Europe said. “The European Architecture Award’s 2017 aim is to reward architects that have been capable of integrating all these constraints and turn them into opportunities of state of art projects in terms of quality, design, comfort and sustainability.”
Archi-Europe divided entries into the following categories: Urban Development, City Housing Development, Commercial/Retail, Office Buildings, Healthcare, and Industrial.
To Tsai Tea Room placed first in the Commercial/Retail category, beating out 326 other nominees in the sector for the coveted “Academy Award” of Architecture.
Greek architect Georges Batzios designed To Tsai two years ago following the Athens shop’s opening back in 2008. It was his first project in his country’s capital. To Tsai—meaning “the tea” in Greek—is divided into two areas: a tea room and a retail area. Taking its cue from Japanese design, the 120 square kilometer space is decidedly sleek, modern, and zen. With gentle lighting, soothing pale wood, and lots of aesthetic lines and shadows, the shop promotes calamity and inspires respite.
“The ornament-free minimalistic details of the interior spaces, combined with the wonderful odor palette of the teas and the soft music, are creating that ‘Zen’ universe [where] the artsy residents and tourists can retire [while within] this noisy part of the city,” Batzios told Wallpaper.
In fact, Georges Batzios told Arch Daily that he thinks Greek people will find To Tsai’s zen atmosphere particularly helpful post-economic downturn. “It’s like tea works like a remedy,” he reasoned. “Tea culture success is a reflection of the slow change of modern Greek people [and] culture from materialism to essentialism.”
If Larissa-born Batzios had his way, more of Greece’s capital would ride the minimalist wave. “The chaos is the charm and torment of Athens,” he told Greece Is. “We need a framework that defines certain basic characteristics of a European city and which can be used to enhance the city’s charm. Barcelona, for example, has managed to reach a state of controlled chaos. Athens can try and do the same.”
With To Tsai, Batzios has left at least one calm, minimalist handprint in the busy Kolonaki neighborhood of Athens.
To Tsai patrons can sit and enjoy tea and snacks in house or purchase one of 500+ types of loose leaf for enjoyment at home. Or, tourists can purchase a cuppa to go and stroll around Kolonaki, known for its many restaurants, art galleries, and designer shops.
Americans without the ability to travel to Greece can experience Batzios work here in our greatest city—New York—as he is one of the architects responsible for Manhattan’s MoMa Tower.
To Tsai Tea Room
Al. Soutsou 19
Athina 106 71, Greece