Is it Goodbye to the Griffith Park Teahouse?

Griffith Park Teahouse, photo by Jeff Adams Ingels
Griffith Park Teahouse, photo by Jeff Adam Ingalls. The artists spent six months designing and planning the structure after one of the collective had spotted the site, with a defunct concrete pad oriented towards fantastic views.

One of the delights of this summer has been the appearance of the Griffith Park Teahouse, a meditative space built on an existing concrete pad in a remote corner of Griffith Park, near Dante’s View. But its pleasures may be short-lived as the Department of Rec and Parks plans to dismantle it, by as soon as July 27.

The teahouse was constructed covertly by an anonymous artists collective as “a love letter to Los Angeles and a quiet perch for urban reflection.” The building, made from “lightly charred” redwoods “killed in the 2007 Griffith Park fire,” has won thousands of admirers, among them Moby; he was moved to declare it LA’s “new best building. . . a calm, humble, beautiful little tea house. . . and. . . as flawless a building as exists anywhere in l.a.”

Knowing the regular permit process would be arduous and possibly fruitless, the group chose to act now, apologize later. But they are said to have approached the Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) within a day or two of the teahouse’s June 30 opening (marked by a tea ceremony), with a promise to personally maintain the little building if the department would allow it to stay in place. The park service issued a temporary permit, enabling it to remain legally through July 26, and the artists hoped this would be extended.

Image on Change.com's petition
Image on Change.com’s petition to save the teahouse.

But you can’t give a gift you don’t have the power to give, and now Rec and Parks has indicated it intends to remove the teahouse from its present site, possibly as early as Monday, July 27, per the agreement.

Fans of the teahouse have rallied, and thousands have already signed a petition, demanding the building remain with the statement: “It breathes life back into things destroyed, made from reclaimed wood from the Griffith Park Fire. It’s a gesture of peace and a celebration of the artists’ love for Griffith Park. There should be tea houses this meaningful in every park in the world.”

But what was RAP to do, when faced with maintenance of the built equivalent of a darling little puppy it had never asked for, as well as the problem of precedent? If the rules aren’t applied universally, the public could lose confidence in the permit process. On the other hand, does bureaucracy thwart beauty and the people’s choice in what it considers public art?

The site before the artists collective built the Griffith Park Teahouse; photo by Jeff Adam Ingall
The site before the artists collective made their mark. In the spirit of the building’s hopefulness, visitors are posting wishes for LA at the teahouse.

Aware of the predicament, the collective has issued this statement:

The last few weeks have rekindled our love affair with Los Angeles. The warm welcome the teahouse received in Griffith Park—from early morning risers, park enthusiasts, occasional hikers, first-timers, equestrians, families, midnight riders, and park officials—has been a source of wonder and inspiration.

Thousands of delightful and moving wishes are being recorded and offered to the city. From sunrise to sunset, a steady stream of people stops by for a few moments of introspection. Strangers are becoming acquainted, making plans.

We’re grateful to the city for accepting the teahouse as a gift. We’re grateful to all the people who have hiked up to see the teahouse, leave a wish, ring the bell.

If you would like to visit or come make a wish, now is a good time. Word is LA Recs and Parks plan to remove the teahouse soon, perhaps as early as on the 27th.

Word is also that the teahouse might wind up in a new location. Watch this space.

Read more about the teahouse in Carolina Miranda’s report for the Los Angeles Times.