Olson Kundig is a Seattle-based design practice founded on the ideas that buildings can serve as a bridge between nature, culture and people, and that inspiring surroundings have a positive effect on people’s lives. Led by five owners, the firm’s work can be found across the globe, with projects as wide ranging as huts to high rises, homes—often for art collectors—to academic, cultural and civic projects, museums and exhibition design, places of worship, creative production, urban design and interior design.
The firm began its creative existence in 1966 with the architect Jim Olson, whose work at that time centered on explorations of the relationship between dwellings and the landscapes in which they inhabit. Olson started the firm based on the essential ideas that buildings can serve as a bridge between nature, culture, histories, and people, and that inspiring surroundings have a positive effect on people’s lives.
Over the five decades of its existence, the firm has grown and broadened its expertise far beyond the residences for which it is still best known. It consciously devotes a consistent energy and enthusiasm to every project, no matter whether the task at hand is a cabin in the woods or a high-rise in Seoul. Every finished project manifests a “macro to micro” level of attention, from the big ideas to the smallest details, giving coherence to the entire experience of the built site.
The geographical scope of the work has grown to cover five continents, in locations ranging from the rural landscapes of Montana and Idaho to intensively urban contexts in Manhattan and Mumbai. But no matter the situation, the same philosophies—for instance a careful consideration of the environment, attunement to local materials and culture, and seeking out the expertise and contributions of craftspeople, artists, and other outside experts—continue to apply to each new undertaking.
Among the firm’s accolades are the 2009 National AIA Architecture Firm Award (as Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects); dozens of national and regional design awards from the American Institute of Architects; American Architecture Awards from the Chicago Athenaeum; Jim Olson’s 2007 Seattle Medal of Honor; and Tom Kundig’s National Design Award from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt and his Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Olson and Kundig were inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 2012. For two years in a row, the firm was named one of the Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in Architecture by Fast Company.