Started by Jim Olson in 1967, Olson Kundig is an architectural firm whose designs include residential, museums, exhibitions, commercial projects, hospitality projects, academics, places of worship, and even interior design. Jim Olson, Tim Kundig, Kirsten Ring Murray, Alan Maskin, Kevin Kudo King, and Hemanshu Parwani are the company’s current owners. In 2014, they designed a workspace in New York. The firm has an in-house interior design and landscape design studio. It houses full-range services and purchase capabilities. The firm believes in expanding built and natural landscapes through its structures.
The founder Jim Olson explores the relation between art, nature, and architecture. He works towards providing an ample amount of natural ventilation to his structures. He has won numerous honors and many international awards. Along with being an architect, he has written various articles. There are four monographs in the series. Tom Kundig, another owner and principal architect, keeps interested in the way people interact with the spaces. His work is formal and technical, as well as connects the people to it. He regularly gives guest lectures in several architectural schools and serves as a juror.
The firm primarily focuses on connecting dwellings and landscapes. They presume that buildings serve as a bridge between nature, culture, history, and people. According to them, architecture and art together create a flawless experience. Olson Kundig creates designs that bring a positive effect on the surroundings. The firm always follows a contextual approach. Their ideas enhance the building’s performance. They use various tools at every stage of the design process to provide a sustainable and habitable space.
Working alongside and seeking the expertise of artisans and craftsmen is an integral part of the firm. They believe that local artisans introduce them to the local culture and tell the authentic story of the place. Olson Kundig designs their buildings with a careful study of the surroundings of the site. They tend to use local materials and have a glimpse of the culture and history of the place in the design. They show macro to micro-level attention in every project.
Olson Kundig’s office is a renovated 19th-century building, The Washington Shoe building in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. In this room, the brick walls and the frame of heavy Northwest timbers preserve the character of the old space. The firm believes in collaboration and sharing of ideas. The common areas are the heart of the office. They constitute modular and movable furniture suitable for any gatherings, lunch breaks, or the collaboration of ideas. All the employees of the firm contributed to building the office.
The hydraulic central skylight is one of the main features of the office. By providing daylight and ventilation, the skylight is a focal point of the building. It tops the staircase that aesthetically connects the three floors of the office. Most visitors admire the luminous staircase and the augmented surrounding spaces. With the help of a hydraulic system, the skylight can be opened and closed.
First Project – Earth House
One of the very initial projects of Olson Kundig was the earth house structured in 1968. In the style of cave dwellings, underground caves, and views of the landscape from the edge, the Earth House is very organic in design. It connects people to nature in every way possible. Located on the side of Mount Rainier, the garden roof effortlessly merges with its surroundings. It is a perfect nature retreat. The design allows occupants to enjoy both the outdoors and the indoors equally. The planted roof, outdoor pool, and landscape help savor the moment peacefully.
Latest Project (As of 2021)
With a black steel mesh and gold painted steel metallic façade, LeBron James Innovation Center, designed by Olson Kundig, stands in the 300-acre Nike World Headquarters. The building portrays the high performance physically and athleticism that the brand boasts. The design delivers ideal spaces for research, invention, and innovation. The Nike Sports research lab (NRSL) is a cantilevered structure supported by mega trusses and a waffle slab base. The waffle slab provided extra backing to the cantilever. The slab takes its inspiration from the iconic waffle pattern of early Nike shoes. A signature 100 m ramp at an angle of 15 degrees adorns the façade. The ramp includes green spaces and workout spaces.
Within the research center’s heart is a four-story atrium. Atriums remove barriers while illuminating entire spaces. The atrium unifies the 700 staff allowing cross-pollination of ideas. The Olson Kundig design also houses a full-size basketball court, partial soccer pitch, and 200 m track. It has very indigenous interiors with the use of local materials for furniture. Every employee has a customizable space dedicated to themselves to feel comfortable and focus on research and designing. The structure has sustainable features like water-efficient fixtures, 900 solar panels, and flooring done by recycled materials.
Olson Kundig has always strived to leave a mark of themselves and their principles in every design. They work towards keeping alive the culture and the materials found in the place. They have a symbiotic work culture with discussions on each other’s designs regularly. All designs have been well thought out and accomplished. Their attention to detail in every aspect and the importance given to building performance are commendable.