Los Angeles’s Griffith Park is home to miles of hiking trails, the Hollywood Sign, and at least one mountain lion. Now, suddenly, the park has a teahouse, secretly installed by a group of anonymous artists on a hillside overlooking the city.
Los Angeles Times columnist Carolina Miranda was one of a handful of journalists invited to the teahouse’s opening, which took place yesterday morning at sunrise. Miranda was sent a piece of laser-etched wood telling her to meet in a parking lot at 5:00 a.m. and “follow the lights”:
On the north end of the parking lot, we find an arrangement of ceramic teacups each bearing an LED candle. Each guest is given a cup, along with a small map on vellum emblazoned with the profile of a griffin. A red line marks a path that zigs then zags up the flanks of Mt. Hollywood, past Dante’s view, before coming to rest on Mt. Bell, to the northeast.
Our destination is the Griffith Park Teahouse, a diminutive wood structure, loosely inspired by Japanese architecture, which did not exist until Monday night when it was surreptitiously installed by a loose collective of artists.
The 80-square-foot teahouse not only was built guerrilla-style, it was also constructed using reclaimed materials from the park itself. Wood that had been burned in a devastating wildfire that swept through the park in 2007 was salvaged and used to build the structure.
In addition to the structure—which looks incredibly sturdy for being built on the sly—there’s an actual teahouse setup inside. On the morning of the opening, someone was performing a Japanese tea ceremony, serving green tea and almond cookies to guests.
Also according to Japanese tradition, the teahouse has a place to make wishes. In this case, wishes for the future of Los Angeles can be inscribed on thin sheets of salvaged redwood. The “P-22” that’s laser-etched into each wish and appears in the gryphon-like logo for the teahouse is a reference to the famous mountain lion who roams the park and sometimes hides out in neighboring basements.
The team of artists, which includes some professional woodworkers, designed the structure to be bolted to an old foundation they discovered in the park. The teahouse was prefabricated off-site and smuggled into the park in pieces. I’m completely impressed that they were able to spec out the location, gather all the wood, and build the damn thing without making trouble—this is a busy urban park that’s home to tourist-thronged attractions like the Griffith Observatory and LA Zoo as well as plenty of hikers.
Although the artists didn’t get permission to build the structure, they’re hoping that it will remain standing in the park as their gift to the city. There isn’t much infrastructure in this part of the park, and to be honest, hikers could use a shady place to rest. Let’s hope the city is smart enough to permanently add this teahouse to the park’s long list of destinations.
Images via @GParkTeaHouse
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