Title: Tom Kundig: Houses
Editor: Dung Ngo
Publication Date: January 3, 2007
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
This monograph for architect Tom Kundig is another example of how the approach to architectural works can be perfectly suited to the work itself. The five houses in this monograph are filled with obsessive details, raw materials, and blackened steel with the fabrication markings left on it. The monograph format is filled with obsessive photographs of the details, sketches, and diagrams, bringing the richness of the materials to life.
On a diagrammatic level the houses are for the most part unremarkable spaces: most of them are simple boxes. Yet it is the abundant detailing that causes a functional upending to most of the spaces. Instead of easy-access doors, the houses contain concrete cabinet doors, heavy corten steel doors, giant corten plates as house shutters, and over detailed and under bright light fixtures. The effect would be maddening--enough to warrant me not even writing this review--if it were not for the fact that many of the details serve to disrupt domestic smoothness. In a world of expensive houses, creating a simple space with domesticity-resistant details is a brilliant subversion of the task of delivering a well-built house.
This is not to imply that Mr. Kundig is this conceptual about his work, or that he thinks of his houses as anything less than the perfect home. For everyone. The Studio House, with its egg-shaped lights, egg-shaped wheels, egg-shaped fireplace, and egg-shaped soap dish, is reminiscent of the scene described in Adolf Loos' essay "The Poor Little Rich Man": a house filled with everything for living, designed by the architect. Nothing more will fit.
Yet the crafting of these pieces is beautiful and precise, while maintaining the patina of heavy construction. In the rest of the houses, the detailing is less precious but more outgrageous, by being brought to the scale of architectural device. It is pitch-perfect. In the Chicken Point Cabin (pictured after you click "Continue Reading", an entire glass facade opens by an ingenius pully system. The impossibly picturesque setting for the Delta Shelter is let in through huge sliding shutters, essentially double-height walls that can be hand-cranked to shutter the house (from a nuclear blast, one can only suppose. It's beautiful anyway.) The Hot Rod House has a beautiful winding stair made entirely out of blackened steel: an element of rawness winding through the house. The devices become more sophisticated in each house. We look forward to the next monograph.
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