TRANSLATION | Eugenia Yang
Like traveling back in time, the gravel road transforms into the hidden paths taken by ancient fishermen. The morning light falls slowly through the gaps in between bamboo trees as the air is filled with the distinctive scent of the mountains. Surrounded by flora and fauna, Urayama comes into view. As we tread through the path, a gentle greeting suddenly breaks the silence, Ying Jen Shen, the manager of the property, welcomes us with sincerity.
隱身陽明山平菁街，揉合庭園植栽、日本古物、咖啡輕食，Merci 裏山儼然成為台北週末早晨人潮集散地。談起幕後眾功臣，不可不提及裏山主理人沈映仁、一攬芳華主理人陳元慶、Merci Cafe 主理人老王與景觀建築師吳書原，「被他騙買老東西。」老王打趣形容與沈映仁的相識契機，同樣對古道具情有獨鍾，憑相近頻率與審美默契，緣分也悄悄將四人緊繫於此。憶起裏山的創建過程，沈映仁表示起初受到父親蠻大的反對，「因為我們主業一開始是做日本盆栽、庭園樹木的批發，他覺得這樣就可以了。」同時兼營日本古道具進口，渴望有所突破與創新的沈映仁，詢問設計師好友陳元慶的合作意願後，兩人歷經一番現實掙扎，憑著滿腔熱血以及對美的堅持，一座以「樣品屋」概念打造的展演空間便於此誕生。
放眼 Merci 裏山內部，伴隨咖啡香氣，亦乘載了不少日本古物的珍稀過往，懷舊木馬、木造圍爐、天狗面具、鐵製招牌等皆出自老王的精心挑選，油然產生時光錯置的既視感。當問及鍾愛的餐點品項，沈映仁笑答自己最喜歡西西里咖啡，輔以黑糖的巧妙口感，使他印象相當深刻。對於「經典」一詞的詮釋，三人分別給了截然不同 的寓意答覆，沈映仁笑說「很喜歡日本黑松，就像是活的雕塑品，放在庭園中更顯得有說不出的感受。」；「我下一個回憶在哪，它可能是一個場所，這個是我腦中最近的經典。」陳元慶如此答道；「跟自己說說話、喝咖啡，一個人的獨處空間。」老王娓娓而來。看似迥異的回答，卻巧妙道出了「空間」與「人」的核心連結，著實得見三人的心有靈犀，不論經典虛實與否，此時此刻裏山便是他們的發源地，更令人期盼未來的造山運動—每個城市裡皆有一座美的「裏山」。
Meeting through Antiques
Located on Pingjing street on Yangmingshan, Merci Urayama has become a popular weekend destination for residents in Taipei, a place offering garden plants, Japanese antiques, coffee and light meals. The credit for its success goes to Ying Jen Shen, manager of Urayama, Yuan Ching Chen, director of Yilan-Fanghua, Jia Hung Sang, owner of Merci Cafe and landscape architect, Shu Yuan Wu. “He tricked me into buying antiques,” jokes Jia Hung, as he recalls how he met Ying Jen. With the same love for ancient items and similar taste in aesthetics, it is as if the four of them are drawn together by fate. Remembering the process of building Urayama, Ying Jen says at first his father was against the idea. “We started off doing wholesale for Japanese bonsai and garden trees and he thought it was enough.” Managing Japanese antique imports at the same time, Ying Jen aspired for breakthrough and innovation. After asking his designer friend, Yuan Ching, about the desire to do a collaboration, the two underwent several challenges and struggles. With passion and perseverance towards beauty, an exhibition space based on the concept of building a sample house was born.
Plants are symbols of prosperity and new life, while antiques are totems of history and memory. Both can be found at Urayama, with their delicate imagery reflecting Ying Jen and Yuan Ching’s hardworking efforts. As a landscape designer, Yuan Ching reveals the preparation did take a long time, while the difficulties were secondary. “I needed enough space to create, which Ying Jen gave me a lot of freedom. The real challenge lies in the difference between modern values.” For example, in order to truly appreciate what viewers see in a space, the best way is to “lock” their eyesight. By choosing the right window height, people will be able to fully take in and enjoy the changing scenery outside. Of all the spaces, the tea room cleverly utilizes two different garden styles, which is distinctive from the traditional Japanese Karesansui. Contrary to using white sand to represent rivers in Japan, Yuan Ching deliberately chose stone slabs and geometric paneling. “Because it represents Taiwan. I want to showcase the ocean and the concept of how we can live in it.” The same detail can also be found in the choice of vegetation. From the Guest-Greeting Pine that welcomes its visitors, to the calamus that adds elegance to life, the variation of choices plants unlimited fun in the modernistic backyard.
The Meaning of Classic
Enriched with the aroma of coffee, Merci Urayama carries the precious history of countless Japanese antiques. From the wooden horses, wooden stoves, tengu masks, iron signs and more, these are personally chosen by Jia Hung to create a sense of time dislocation. When asked about his favorite item on the menu, Ying Jen smiles and says the Espresso Romano, laced with a brown sugar aftertaste, left a strong impression on him. Interestingly, the three of them each have his own interpretation of classic. “I really like Japanese black pine because it’s like a sculpture that is alive, putting it in your garden gives it an indescribable feeling,” says Ying Jen. To Yuan Ching, it’s about memory. “The classic I have in mind is where my next memory is created. It could be a venue.” As for Jia Hung, it is found in solitude. “It’s a solitary space where I can have a conversation with myself while enjoying coffee.” Their seemingly different answers somehow cleverly express the connection between space and people, showcasing an unspoken bond they share. Regardless of whether the classics are concrete or abstract, this venue is where they embarked on their journey together, which makes us look forward to the future where such a beautiful place like Urayama can be found in every city.