We never would have expected Tom Kundig to be embroiled in legal battle with a community of conservationists, but the characteristically eco-minded architect was slapped with a lawsuit a few weeks ago by residents of Methow Valley, WA. As it turns out, one of Kundig’s newest constructions, dubbed the Flagg Mountain Hut (which he also co-owns), protrudes into the viewshed of a pristine ridge in the valley. Though the new home will feature many of the eco-friendly and site-sensitive elements we’ve seen in Kundig’s other designs, the community is not happy with the project and they’ve launched a campaign asking the owners to Move the Hut off the ridgeline and out of sight to preserve the beauty and character of the valley.
Tom Kundig’s Flagg Mountain Hut is a rectangular prefab with a metal roof that extends out over the cliff. Other than a wireless antenna, it is the only man-made structure visible above the valley floor of Mazama. Though the hut is being built on private property, the previous owners of the site imposed certain restrictions and covenants that new owners are required to follow – specifically, that they are to minimize the visual impact of any structures for the Mazama community as a whole.
As the covenant states: “All improvements placed on the property shall be constructed with restraint and special sensitivity and consideration in order to minimize the visual impact of any such improvements on adjoining parcels and on all other lands, including lands located on the floor of the Methow Valley and all other lands which have a direct line of sight to the property.”
The community claims that Kundig and the other owners have broken these covenants as well as the Methow Conservancy’s Good Neighbor Handbook, which asks that the owners of any site in the area take measures to ensure that ridgeline houses “do not permanently mar the scenic beauty that many treasure in the Methow Valley”.
Because the hut is a prefab construction, the community hopes that courts will agree that it can be easily removed and replanted elsewhere on the property. As it stands, the hut is licensed for use only 60 days per year under a building code exemption that allows hunting cabins and similar structures to be built without water or septic systems. However, the owners are allowed to file an application that would allow for use 365 days per year, which would require them to have normal installations such as water lines and lighting — things residents fear will cause an even greater intrusion.