At its heart, this vacation house is about creating a place where a young family can gather away from the city to enjoy the outdoors and build a legacy of memories. Located on the ecotone, or border, between a Ponderosa pine forest and lake, the home is a framework for the family to experience nature. The house emphasizes the crossing point between these two ecological zones – a distinct yet subtle marker of the family’s presence and legacy.

Project Name: Dragonfly
Studio Name: Olson Kundig

Completed: 2016
Project Size: 6,500 SF
Project Team: Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, Design Principal; Justin Helmbrecht, LEED® AP, Project Architect; Debbie Kennedy, LEED® AP ID+C, Interior Design; Laina Navarro, Brianna Schoeneman and Irina Bokova, Interior Design Staff; Phil Turner, Gizmo Design

Consultants: Bear Mountain Builders, General Contractor; White Cloud Design, Landscape Architect; O- Lighting, Lighting Design; KB Architectural Services with Phil Turner, Gizmo Design; Acutech, Gizmo Fabrication

Dragonfly By Olson Kundig - Sheet8
©Olson Kundig

The home’s materiality helps it fold into the landscape. Exterior siding of reclaimed barnwood will silver as it weathers, weaving the home into the forest. The barnwood continues inside to the entryway and kitchen. The center of the home in plan and function is the open-plan living and dining area, which has extensive glazing with double-height guillotine window walls on either side. From afar, this transparency allows for views through the home to the lake beyond. When both window walls are open, the effect is of a single plinth floating above the forest floor. Native plantings grow up to the home’s edges, and a screened porch on the south end opens to a covered deck. These varying degrees of enclosure allow the family to engage with nature during all seasons.

Dragonfly By Olson Kundig - Sheet11
©Olson Kundig

The home’s program emphasizes a connection to nature from every room. The master bedroom is on the upper level amongst the tree canopy, with glazing on three sides allowing for unobstructed lake views. Two auxiliary structures with planted roofs nestle into the meadow fronting the home’s entrance. The smaller of these two structures is a playroom, with large doors on both sides that open the space to the outdoors. A home base for their many outdoor recreation activities, the larger structure contains storage space for outdoor equipment.

Dragonfly By Olson Kundig - Sheet13
©Olson Kundig

A longtime vacation spot for the family, who camped there before their home was built, the home was designed to maintain a sense of natural discovery the family enjoyed when spending time on the land. The site plan is organized around a path leading through the forest and down to the lake. From the driveway, a gravel path leads across a meadow to the home’s entrance, then winds around the house and down the hill to the lake. Along the way, a constellation of outdoor spaces including covered decks, a fire pit and a hot pool nestled into the hillside chart a path of discovery from house to lake.


2018 Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award


“This home celebrates its ecotone condition between forest, lake and meadow. It’s on an edge – it transitions from the lighter part of the meadow to a steeper slope leading down to the lake below.”

–Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, Design Principal

“Like a Dragonfly, this house sits lightly on the land and disappears into the landscape. It quietly emerges out of the forest and overlooks the lake below, much like a dragonfly might.” –Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, Design Principal

“The house can dress to the climate – it’s designed to be used during all four seasons. It transitions from a protected refuge, to a semi-enclosed condition, to an exposed prospect situation open to the lake.” –Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, Design Principal


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