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Monday, July 2, 2012

Veteran Counsel

Ezine Special

By Savitha Hira
Photographs: Courtesy Olson Kundig Architects

Ocean House 

Photography: Paul Warchol

Internationally celebrated Ar. Jim Olson shares with young architecture aspirants, some royal gems of wisdom from his vast repertoire of experience and insight...

“Inspiring surroundings have a positive effect on people’s lives, and architecture can connect us with the miracle of nature and the magic of art.” This is an inherent belief that guides Ar. Jim Olson, right through his everyday routine to his musings and structures.

Ar. Jim Olson

Photography: Benjamin Benschneider

Jim has profoundly explored the aesthetic interplay of art and architecture; as he has the relationship between the inside and the outside. He creates homes that offer an appropriate environment for living with art and nature. Having often designed homes for art collectors, his projects are sensitive to varying space and light requirements of differing art genres and to the site’s natural attributes.

Jim Olson -Architecture for Art - a Retrospective

Photography: Benjamin Benschneider

Jim Olson WSU Exhibit 

Photography: Benjamin Benschneider

Jim is also concerned with making architecture that creates and enhances community in the urban context. He exemplifies this commitment through 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.

Glass Farmhouse

Photography: Tim Bies

Hong Kong Villa

Photography: Benjamin Benschneider

His work is widely recognized through awards, including citations; he is widely published and has twice been named one of the Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in Architecture by Fast Company.  Jim lectures extensively throughout North America on the relationship between architecture, art and nature. “Jim Olson: Architecture for Art” is the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to his career. The exhibit, which featured 27 of his touchstone projects, 6 of his feature projects, a full-scale diorama of Jim Olson’s cabin and a mural room, debuted at the Museum of Art at Washington State University in October 2011 and is expected to travel to the Lightcatcher at the Whatcom Museum in March of 2013.

Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher Building

Photography: Tim Bies

Ar. Jim Olson in conversation with IAnD:

What prompted you to pursue a career in architecture?
As a kid, I loved to draw and thought I would be an artist when I grew up. Without many structured activities, I was left to myself to be creative. I loved to build forts in the woods, play houses and even built a house for my dog and cat. At about 12 years of age, I decided I would become an architect and never changed my mind.

Gethsemane Lutheran Church Interior
Rendering by Olson Kundig Architects

After 50 years in the field, what is that one thing you wish you could have learnt as a student, which should have been part of your syllabus?
I wish I had taken an extra year to study philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and more art history. Architecture is about life and civilization; the more you understand humanity and life in this world, the better you can serve as an architect.  As it turned out, I have learned tremendously as I have gone through the years of practicing architecture.

Saint Mark's Cathedral 
Photography: Ed Carpenter

Two do’s and don’ts (each) that you could share with a student aspiring to pursue architecture?
Think of a career in architecture as a lifelong quest to find meaning in life.
Keep an open mind and be optimistic. Architecture strives to improve our future.

Glass Apartment

Photography: Tim Bies

Do not be arrogant.
Never give up if you have a gift worth giving. Becoming a good architect takes a lifetime.

American Place

Photography: Paul Warchol

Garner more insights from Ar. Jim Olson on:


  1. Simple but very well presented. Architecture should allow our minds to feel the comfort of exploring non physical dimensions of the built environment through its physical realities...

  2. To Master Jim Olson... Admiration is freely given to a Master as yourself!!! Having the pleasure to work with Wm Wesley Peters at Taliesin and the grand fortune to experience Taliesin West as a result of our relationship gave me the privilege to faintly understand the greatness of FLLW.

    As well, your work addresses overall understanding, truly what is meaningful for the client, the function of the design and allowing the location to speak within the embodiment.

    Master Olson, if you choose, review a few interesting monumental designs and constructions which have been inspired and accomplished... or -
    602 . 870 . 4747...

    Be in touch, if you choose...

  3. The work By Ar Olson is splendid, I must commend him, the commitment to his realized gifts... Godspeed my Friend!
    Posted by Randall e Secrest

  4. Nice Concept & well presented.
    Posted by Rizwana Shaikh on Linkedin Group: IDC


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