Rolling Huts, Mazama, Washington
Responding to the owner’s need for space to house visitors, the Rolling Huts are several steps above camping, while remaining low-tech and low-impact in their design. The huts sit lightly on the site, a flood plain meadow in an alpine river valley. The owner purchased the site, formerly a RV campground, with the aim of allowing the landscape return to its natural state. The wheels lift the structures above the meadow, providing an unobstructed view into nature and the prospect of the surrounding mountains.
The huts are grouped as a herd: while each is sited towards a view of the mountains (and away from the other structures), their proximity unites them. They evoke Thoreau’s simple cabin in the woods; the structures take second place to nature.
Chicken Point Cabin, Idaho
Inhabitat: Many well-known architects make it a point to establish offices in large cities, but even with your success Olson + Kundig remains in the (arguably) more remote Pacific Northwest. What impact do you think being a Seattle-based firm has had on your work?
Tom Kundig: Not entirely sure. I’m sure there are impacts that we are not aware of – are we ‘mysterious’ because we are remote, or are we ‘removed from the action’? My guess is that it might be both, but the most important consideration is how we do our work. In a large landscape like the Pacific Northwest – and in a relatively large city like Seattle that is connected internationally – we might have the best of both worlds. Irregardless, our work is context based - cultural, environmental, craft, tectonics, and so forth – and we are in an ideal location where all these elements converge.
Inhabitat: Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your buildings? If so, what role does green building play into your work?
Tom Kundig: I am absolutely concerned about it. And I’m not speaking strictly of the environmental, because the process of building and what’s required to maintain a building consumes not only a significant amount of natural resources, but also has a huge influence on cultural and social sustainability. Ultimately architecture is cultural and social – it is shelter at its most basic human level, and within the spirit of that notion, it is a deeply humanistic endeavor.
Inhabitat: What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?
Tom Kundig: The greatest challenge is designing to an authenticity that recognizes the true issues of sustainability, not just treating it as a check list of items or simplifying it to accomodate to score keeping. Sustainability takes on a true, holistic understanding of all the implications of a design.