Architect Tom Kundig may be the hottest number in Seattle. But he wowed Dallas this week, entertaining more than 400 people at City Performance Hall Tuesday night as a speaker for the Dallas Architecture Forum.
Kundig, an award-winning architect and principal at Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, has a huge international following thanks to his ability to turn concrete, steels, cranks and pulleys into very livable spaces, sometimes carved right into natural surroundings. He certainly has designed some of the most talked about homes in recent memory, and is tip-top on every billionaire’s list of most coveted architect for primary, secondary or subsequent homes.
He has a Louis Kahn-like affinity for bare concrete, but he throws in a passion for raw steel, or sometimes rusty metal, almost full-scale use of “the seven simple machines.” It’s a balance between refinement and rawness, which he told us comes from an influence of the aircraft industry and steel, all in the neck of the woods where he grew up. Automobiles also had a tremendous influence on the 60 year old baby boomer. His parents are Swiss, and his father was an architect.
“Architecture is supposed to be provocative,” he said, “it’s supposed to poke society.”
His natural interest has always been with moving things, from logging to machines for daily living —
“A machine is not an inhuman thing,” he said. “why can’t a building change depending on the mood or circumstances?”
Kundig’s creations are amazing, a stark contrast to the austere white box usually associated with modern architecture. He designs for tech and Wall Street titans all over the world, but sadly cannot mention names because of strict NDAs. His toughest clients, he said, are media titans who want uber privacy. Never did work for Steve Jobs, but knows people who did. I would almost put money on a bet he’s done something for Bill and Melinda Gates.
(He is working on a project in Dallas. Shhh.)
Over the past five years, Kundig has continued to pick up commissioned projects as well as awards, including the 2008 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture Design. In 2007, he was recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with an Academy Award in Architecture.
Tom Kundig: Houses 2 features seventeen residential projects, ranging from a five hundred-square-foot cabin in the woods to a house carved into and built out of solid rock. In his new work, Kundig continues to strike a balance between raw and refined and modern and warm, creating inviting spaces with a strong sense of place. The houses seamlessly incorporate his signature inventive details, rich materials, and stunning sites’from the majestic Northwestern forest to the severe high desert.
Let’s look at a few of his most famous projects: The Chicken Point Cabin, located on Lake Hayden in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, built in 2002, features an operable wall of windows, stunning site, rustic materials, and unique details, like a steel fireplace cut from a recycled section of an Alaskan oil pipeline. “Hammer House,” in Madrona, was built in 2009. FYI, Dallas home builder extraordinaire Joe kain recently showed me a Dallas home with a fireplace made from hot oiled metal.
A load-bearing exterior wall comprised of windows set into a steel structural frame “frees the interior from the need for load-bearing walls, which maintains continuous access to the view within the space,” according to a writeup by Kundig’s firm. “The house opens up in multiple ways and directions, with a walled garden to the East and two decks to the West. Hanging steel stairs, suspended between the North wall and a steel plate, enhance this sense of transparency.”
The Studio House in Seattle, Wash. circa 1998, has a tessellated glass facade, rusted steel support beams, and concrete interior walls. A combination home and photo studio, the house has a great room equipped with studio-grade ceiling lighting (above).
This is the circa 2006 Skykomish, Wash., Tye River Cabin : “essentially a wooden tent on a platform that opens to the forest and river.” It is only 600 square feet, (Kunwig is bullish on smaller homes) and like all his work, the cabin encourages an orientation toward nature with rotating glass panels, allowing walls of the structure to open. “The stuff I’ve been doing is not about the center.”
Talk about integrating a house into the surrounding landscape, here is a 2010 design in San Juan Islands, Wash. where Kundig drew up a low-profile design with a green roof and concrete exterior walls that blend with the nearby stone: The Pierre features his trademark steel windows to capture the water views.