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Monday, July 30, 2012

Experientially Yours


Ezine Special

By Savitha Hira
Photography: Courtesy Olson Kundig Architects


  Red House                                     Photography: Bruce Van Inwegen 

A constantly ticking brain cohabiting with a continually seeking mind makes the body agile and inspired. Profiling Ar. Jim Olson has been like meeting ‘dynamism’ in person and understanding that where vocation is passion, there is no delineation between the man and his work.

Professional and personal merge into a single entity, reinstating one’s belief that it is after all there is no ‘external genie’ (as a creative theory on genius' professes) that is responsible for genius’ unfolding; but merely a gradual, sustained and constantly sifting maturity that aids success with an underlying notion of humility.

Ar. Jim Olson began his professional journey in the 1960’s exploring how architecture could establish the very apparent physical but elusive emotional connect between a brick-n-mortar structure and its surrounding landscape; between people and their cultural fabric. Almost a dreamer, if I may call him that, Jim even made tangible the pleasure that good architecture could bring to its inhabitants, having a positive effect on their lives; and that architecture can connect one with the miracle of nature and the magic of art.


He has lived this belief – through his residential projects, often for art collectors. Jim has profoundly explored the aesthetic interplay of art and architecture, and its ingrained relationship with light. He creates homes that offer an appropriate environment for living with art and nature, such as An American Place, House of Light and Hong Kong Villa. His projects are sensitive to varying space and light requirements of differing art genres and to the site’s natural attributes. You can see a host of them profiled under his project, process, his academic viewpoint and his discourse on why architecture matters.

Deeply concerned with making architecture that creates and enhances community in the urban context, the architect has powerfully altered the city fabric of Seattle, his hometown. The award-winning mixed-use Pike and Virginia project was the first new building in Pike Place Market in fifty years and originated a style of architecture in the neighbourhood. This building, among other large urban buildings designed by the firm, including Gethsemane Lutheran Church and Lightcatcher at the Whatcom Museum, expresses the power of contextual design—architecture that fits into the cultural, social and economic milieu of a location as well as the built and natural environments.

Reflecting, Ar. Olson cites the following projects:

Earth House                                                                                                                                            Photography: Mary Randlett

Earth House                                                                                                                                            Photography: Mary Randlett

“I was in my 20s, when the Earth House grew out of the ground and was covered with a grass roof. The axis of the house focused on our regional monument, Mount Rainier. The house made me realize how I am connected to nature to my core.”

The Pike  and Virginia Building                                                               Photography: Dick Busher

The Pike  and Virginia Building                                                               Photography: Dick Busher

“The Pike and Virginia building integrated architecture into the urban fabric the way others had integrated with nature. I became devoted to urban life and have lived in downtown Seattle for over 30 years.”

Urban Sanctuary                                                                Photography:  Tim Bies

Urban Sanctuary                                                                Photography:  Eduardo Calderon

“The urban apartment I share with my wife Katherine is an experiment involving the complete blending of architecture and art. Art actually surrounds the architecture as a huge mural wraps the living room. This immersion in art on a personal level helped to prepare me to create many other environments for fine art."

     The Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building                                         Photography:  Tim Bies

   The Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building                             Photography:   Benjamin Benschneider 

“The Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building is my first stand-alone art museum. The building is a study in light, art, and public space.”

Gallery House                                         Photography:  John Vaughan


Gallery House                                                                                                                                            Photography: Art Grice

"Gallery House was the first art collector’s residence that I designed and led to a number of subsequent houses for art collectors.”

Red House                                         Photography:  Bruce Van Inwegen

“The objective for the Red House was to create a private paradise within a bustling city and a home that feels public in parts, and private and secluded in others. The result is at once a home, a museum and a response to its urban environment.”

Communicating through his structures, his strong sensibilities of space inclusion and division, integrating outdoors with indoors, framing views, playing with imagery – both existent and imagined, Jim credits his inspirational sojourns and maturing milestones to Ar. Frank Lloyd Wright, artist James Turrell to a large extent, NW architects Paul Kirk and Ralph Anderson, traditional Japanese architecture, and nature.


Here's a peek into Jim's book:


We sum up with a video on our honoured Special Guest for this month – Ar. Jim Olson. The video takes a short peek into his mind, brain and of course, predominantly his heart.

1 comment :

  1. Very fortunate are the students and trainees who worked under Jim Olson's mentorship. His approach to architecture and his projects have always been very intensively thought out, encompassing all the elements from physical to psychological. His reasoning and substantiation for his designs are always based on sound experience, and not something which has been regurgitated from a textbook or magazine.
    Posted by Anup Magan on Linkedin Group: London Architecture Network

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