The Pierre, San Juan Islands, Washington
Inhabitat: You're the sole N. American representative in Toto Gallery MA’s “Global Ends – Towards the Beginning” an exhibit that hopes to inspire architects to break away from the architectural uniformity resulting from past movements. Modernism has clearly been the most dominant and continues to permeate design - what are your thoughts on its value today?
Tom Kundig: Modernism at its core is a humanistic value. It is about shelter, about culture, and about equality, safety, and nurturing for a better future for EVERYBODY. Unfortunately today, many of these values have been lost in stylistic fashion. I am hopeful that the next movement will be about a meaningful search for a humanistic architecture. This is an idea that will never go out of style.
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.