Modest spectacle: Tom Kundig presents a new monograph of Works

Tom Kundig Works book
Works is a new monograph featuring 19 of the renowned architect Tom Kundig's global projects,
(Image credit: Princeton Architectural Press)

Tom Kundig's architecture combines an extraordinary attention to detail with a richly patinated palette of materials. The Seattle-based architect works in partnership with Jim Olson, although both designers tend to have their own independent projects (and monographs). Works is the latest tome on Kundig's quietly prolific output, a portfolio of relatively modest but undeniably spectacular homes that exploit the topography, views and atmosphere of their sites down to every last detail.

The book features 19 projects from around the world, although the majority are residences in the US. These include the spectacular Studhorse retreat in Washington and a grand six-storey New York townhouse. In almost every project, there's not only a relish for the texture and surface of tough, unadorned materials like wood, steel, concrete and iron, but also a love of kineticism, machinery and the monumental.

Kundig – and his collaborators and specialists – create a modern aesthetic that doesn't rely on seamlessly hidden sources of power or mystical minimalism. Instead, pulleys heave, handles turn and gears interlock, creating houses and cabins with vast opening windows, enveloping shutter systems and transformable facades. These mechanical preoccupations provide the thread of unity, whether the project is a major new art gallery or a tiny fishing cabin in Washington State, designed to function in as straightforward and pragmatic a way as possible.

Kundig's work is now much in demand. The book is filled with design sketches and personal recollections but still can't quite convey the enormity and complexity of some of these works – and the sheer effort that has gone into making them appear so effortless. Many contemporary architects profess a strong connection to site regardless of their aesthetic preoccupations. However, few have made such a convincing case of how to be uncompromising as Kundig.

Tom Kundig presents a new monograph of Works

Each structure interacts intimately with the environment in which it is placed, while large glass windows and viewing platforms are frequently used to make the most of spectacular views, like these over Washington's Methow Valley. Pictured: Studhorse, Winthrop, Washington

(Image credit: Princeton Architectural Press)

Tom Kundig presents a new monograph of Works

The process of building is on display in many of Kundig's structures. Pulleys and leavers are left, serving practical functions and creating features of what other architects may choose to hide away. Pictured: Hawaii Residence, Hawaii

(Image credit: Princeton Architectural Press)

Sketches and photographs of Tom Kundig's development

First hand accounts of projects sit alongside developmental sketches and photographs of finished buildings, creating a fully realised impression of Kundig's creative process. Pictured: Tacoma Art Museum, housing the Haub Art Collection

(Image credit: Princeton Architectural Press)

Modest spectacle: Tom Kundig presents a new monograph of Works

Nonetheless, the translation of the architectural complexity of some projects remains unscalable in book form

(Image credit: Princeton Architectural Press)

INFORMATION

Works, by Tom Kundig, $65, published by Princeton Architectural Press. For more information, visit PAP’s website (opens in new tab)

Photography courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.