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Many architects champion buildings in which inside and outside flow together, but few nail this ideal quite like Tom Kundig. An owner and principal of Olson Kundig in Seattle, he builds houses that look like rustic jewels atop glacial rock in the Cascade Range of Washington state, or along the San Juan Islands waterfront or in the California high desert. Typically made of some combination of weathered wood, concrete and rusted steel, the structures also include generous stretches of glass, allowing light and views to pour in. Often the shutters, walls or a portion of the roof crank open by means of a wheel or other manually operated device that Mr. Kundig, 61, affectionately refers to as a “gizmo.”
The architect leaves his mark in both city and wilderness settings, undertaking commercial and cultural projects (and even door handles and other steel accessories) as well as private residences. But his latest book, “Tom Kundig Works,” due next month from Princeton Architectural Press, shows that he always starts with the idea of intimacy. No matter what size they are, his buildings are comfortably scaled shelters from which to enjoy the spectacle of nature, even if it’s only urban greenery.
The son of Swiss émigrés, Mr. Kundig was strongly influenced by the rugged topography of the Pacific Northwest, where he was raised. In a recent phone conversation, our talk naturally wound through the mountains, touching on aspects of that landscape that shaped him. […]