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Arts and Entertainment

How To Find That Cool Little Teahouse In Griffith Park

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We couldn't resist: we had to take a hike into Griffith Park to visit the small, wooden Japanese-inspired teahouse that an anonymous collective of artists constructed this week. And it was totally worth the sweat to get there—especially since the structure might not be there for much longer.

The guerrilla art installation, known as The Griffith Park Teahouse, was constructed overnight on Monday. The next morning a by-invitation tea ceremony was hosted there—complete with an opera recital—and curious hikers have been free to visit the teahouse since then. Since the structure was built without permission, the artists are hoping that public support and a petition to the city will save it from demolition. In the meantime, we figured we'd better get up there before anything happened to it.

To reach the teahouse, you can begin at the Charlie Turner Trailhead for the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail, located directly across the parking lot from the front entrance to the Griffith Observatory. Make your way up the trail, passing the Berlin Forest on your left, named for L.A.'s sister city. Continue straight ahead until you cross the bridge that spans the Mt. Hollywood Dr. Canyon Rd. tunnel. After crossing, veer left and take the single track path that rises up just to the right of the wider path. Keep the Hollywood sign on your left as you zigzag up the narrow trail until you reach a major junction where five trails converge. Take the second trail on your right—which is more or less straight ahead—and follow a fairly level fire road that winds around Dante's Peak.

After passing the small shady garden of Dante's View and a welcome water fountain on your right, continue around the Peak, until you see a ridge trail continuing straight ahead of you. At this point, you'll likely be able to spot the teahouse directly ahead of you. Continue on the path until you see a small fire trail with a pipe running along it. Step up onto this trail and continue along the path until you arrive at the teahouse.

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The beautiful and sturdy 80-square-foot teahouse looks as though it's been there for decades. It's been thoughtfully constructed of reclaimed wood from trees left behind by the devastating 2007 Griffith Park fire, as well as felled redwoods that were otherwise heading to the city's composting facility. The structure is bolted to a pre-existing concrete foundation, likely part of an old utility shack. The artists worked with a professional woodworker from Glendale to refine the details of the structure, and the craftsmanship shows in the details. The frame of the teahouse—constructed from thick cuts of timber—offers dark, clean lines, which are offset by soft, orange hue of redwood panels. Purposefully charred in tribute to the 2007 fire, the panels help enclose the space, while also providing large windows to enjoy the surrounding views and cool breezes.

In the eaves of the structure, you'll see a carving of a griffin, the mythological bird-lion creature. Though in this case, the griffin is part red-tailed hawk, commonly seen around the park, and part P-22, our favorite Griffith Park mountain lion.

Small balsa wood shingles hang from nails by the door to the teahouse, where a sign invites visitors to use provided pencils to write wishes for Los Angeles on the wood. The sign reads, "Write a wish for the city. Maybe a love letter. Or a memory, an observation, a constructive criticism. Ring the bell to seal your wish." The wishes can then be hung from small wooden pegs lining two interior walls of the structure. There's a large red bell can be rung by hand. Though with the strong breezes we've been having lately the lightweight shingles easily blow off the pegs. Given the temporal nature of the structure, part of the point may be that the wishes flutter away.

A short wooden table sits within the teahouse, covered by a lace table cloth. Someone has generously left a jar of oolong tea leaves, though they apologize on the jar for not remembering tea bags. Just outside the structure, is a rectangular wooden platform, which could be used for sitting, a picnic or perhaps another tea ceremony.

Standing by the teahouse, looking out on the dramatic views and hearing the flutter of balsa wood and chirping birds, offers plenty of room for quiet contemplation. Too bad I forgot to bring a teapot.

New Sign At Griffith Park Teahouse: 'Starbucks Coffee Coming Soon'