All Articles
All Articles

Architect Tom Kundig

by Brian Fichtner
on 11 November 2008

The winner of the Architecture Design category for Cooper-Hewitt's 2008 National Design Awards, at 54 Tom Kundig maintains a youthful sense of wonder at the path his career has taken. He refers to his recent string of successes as something like riding a wave, while citing the inimitable power of the internet to create fluid connections. Indeed, while the Seattle-based firm in which he is partner, Olsen Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects (OKSA), maintains a surprisingly polished website, the viral, word-of-mouth power of blogs and online media have aided in this crescendo, bringing him new clients from around the world.

Alluding to nature comes readily to Kundig, who grew up in the high desert of Idaho and Washington and spent his formative years, as have many Pacific Northwesterners, connected to his surroundings through activities such as mountaineering and rock climbing. In contrast to the East Coast's more formalistic mentality of architecture, his designs are rooted in the culture of landscape: "Perhaps because of my upbringing, I have more of an elemental feel for material and details… My buildings are intended to age and move and weather." Perhaps like no other Kundig project, the Montecito Residence (top images, courtesy Tim Bies) follows these very tenets. Like a bird of prey readying to take flight through the valley below, the house sits perched on the hillside, its oxidized steel panels and toned concrete slabs meant to become part of the very landscape.


Movement remains central to Kundig's most recognized residential projects. Early exposure to mining, logging, and farming industries instilled a fascination with machinery that has influenced many of his architectural solutions. A commission for a remote cabin in eastern Washington called for a retreat that could adapt to the owner's presence; opening up when in use, sealing off during inclement weather or periods of disuse. The finished structure, named the Delta Shelter (right, courtesy Benjamin Benschneider), is an exquisite box featuring steel shutters that roll on a hand driven mechanical system.

Kundig likens these kinetic apparatuses, which have taken the nickname "gizmos," to inventions of necessity "that oddly put us back in touch with the nature of natural forces." It's an interesting turn of the phrase natural forces of nature, but the distinction is apt, coming from a man who once spent years defying gravity. These gizmos are so prevalent in Kundig's work that OSKA recently released a video, "Prototypes and Moving Parts," that features many of them in motion (see below).

What keeps the Mr. Kundig so happily busy? "It's unending, the source of inspiration," he says, "The idea is to harvest the ideas whenever they're happening. Because the older you get, the deeper the 'bags of tools' that you have to work with." A fitting metaphor for an architect so committed to the process of building.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity
Loading More...