Gallery: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: 8 Questions with Architect Tom Kundig

The Shadowboxx, San Juan Islands, Washington
Shadowboxx responds to a desire to facilitate an intimate understanding of this special place and explores of the tradition of gathering around a fire. Tucked between a thicket of trees and a rising bank, the house sits in a natural clearing created by the strong winds that force back the trees from the rocky bank. The building purposely confuses the traditional boundaries between a built structure and its surroundings.

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.


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  1. aidenwright March 14, 2011 at 5:40 am

    I don’t like the sideboard in that dining room that much… I would go with something more with the likes of D. Manuel from Boca do Lobo.

    Nevetheless the rest is awesomwe!

  2. aidenwright March 14, 2011 at 5:35 am

    I don’t like the sideboard that much

  3. CraigSchiller March 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I have a comment and question for the Architect. As a Masters student in Sustainable Design, I have studied high performance and sustainable structures. I noticed the support for the hut’s roof is an I-beam that goes directly through the living space. Why would such thermal bridging be included in a structure used in a heating dominated climate? This seems to be an oversight that would drastically reduce the performance and comfort of these huts.

  4. giovanni guccini March 13, 2011 at 8:35 am

    I really like this architect.

    He is the poetry of detail. Look at the openings of the mechanisms of Chicken Point Cabin.

    I’d like to work for him and with him

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