There are hundreds of picturesque cabins across the state, but some of the most spotlight-ready homes came from the mind of one man, Tom Kundig. The Northwest native cites his scientific studies and love of mountain climbing as the reasons he tries to link the technical and the poetic in his structures. They often include giant manual cranks or salvaged industrial wheels that open entire walls into the elements. 

Though the Olson Kundig firm has created spaces for the Tacoma Art Museum and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center—not to mention a tower in Seoul and a forthcoming structure at the Jewish Museum Berlin—the Northwest cabin remains a specialty. We asked Kundig to pick his favorite private residences among his Washington work. Want to actually sleep in a Kundig creation without racking up felonies? Rent one of Mazama’s Rolling Huts, featuring the classic steel-box-as-art Kundig style. 

False bay writers cabin 1 edh9pq

False Bay Writer's Cabin
Kundig calls the San Juan home in a box an “exploration of how to get a ‘twofer’ out of the deck.” The walls fold down to become the deck, using a Rube Goldbergian series of hydraulic winches and lead blocks (see below). The owners can even choose which walls they want unfurled at any given time—and the interior fireplace rotates to suit any permutation. 

Untitled 1 uoawih
Delta shelter kundig qqjzif

Delta Shelter
The three-story pillar of a cabin in the Methow Valley uses the ground floor as carport and storage, the middle for bedrooms, and the top, most light-filled, space for living and kitchen. There’s no A/C, just giant shutters that open using a hand--powered wheel to let the breeze inside. Like many Olson Kundig homes, it was mostly prefabricated off site—to keep construction waste in the pristine Methow to a minimum.

Kundig sol duc cabin bqrmqq

Sol Duc Cabin
The Olympic Peninsula home isn’t subtle; in Kundig’s words, “It emphatically prioritizes the river.” Its 350 square feet face the nearby water with two-story windows but the structure is raised up on stilts to avoid floods. In response to the predictably wet weather of the Olympic rain forest, it can be sealed when the fisherman owner isn’t home.

Tye river cabin kundig wav36s

Tye River Cabin

Though little of the Olson Kundig style could be called old fashioned, its Skykomish--area bungalow is built around a central fireplace as if it’s a frontier cabin—though this fireplace is boxy concrete. The window walls pivot open so practically the whole thing is exposed to the elements, but the roof sticks out far enough to protect the interior from rain. Kundig harks back to his days as a biology student to describe the see-through walls: “It is transparent to the forest side, emphasizing the ecotone between prospect and refuge, as well as meadow and forest.”


Updated May 23, 2017. The name of the Jewish Museum Berlin has been corrected. And the structure there by Olson Kundig is currently under construction, not completed as originally stated.

Show Comments