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January 16, 2014
On Puget Sound, activist and filmmaker Anna Hoover collaborated with Les Eerkes, a principal at Olson Kundig Architects, on a 693-square-foot studio in the woods. Using freecycled materials and a six-footed foundation to rein in construction costs, Hoover and Eerkes created a distinctive structure that treads lightly on the land.
compact cabin in washington by olson kundig architects

Anna Hoover, founder of the non-profit First Light Alaska, sought a "thought refuge, a room with a view to sit and contemplate future projects and reflect on recent travels and interactions, plenty of ‘headspace’—tall ceilings—and the ability to host other artists for studio time," she says. A longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Hoover was familiar with the work of Olson Kundig and contacted the Seattle-based firm to design her abode.

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exterior of a modern compact house in washington

With a construction budget of less than $200 per square foot, architect Les Eerkes (with the mentorship of Tom Kunding) looked for ways to build the structure efficiently. He specified glulam—glued laminated timber—for the structure and spanned the skeleton with structurally insulated floor and roof panels. The structure is stationed atop a six-column foundation. "The 'six-footed' solution was balanced against a spread footing and stem wall approach," Eerkes says. "Cost analysis led us in the direction of the column footing approach because it minimized excavation and form work costs."

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hardiepanel and charred wood exterior on compact cabin

The house features materials, cabinetry, and plants salvaged from homes slated to be demolished. Hoover and her friends completed much of that work on their own. "The process of reclaiming these plants and items and giving them a new life and home is fulfilling on many levels," Hoover says. "Easier on the pocketbook and the environment—and you receive the benefit of a good workout." The facade is clad in T1-11 plywood, which Hoover charred herself using a weed dragon torch. She painted the HardiePanel, too.

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cantilevered structure by olson kundig architects

The cantilevered sleeping loft posed a structural challenge. "The structure is simple, however we explored a number of options for supporting the cantilevered loft," Eerkes says. "But after comparing costs for large trusses versus a big glulam beam—including labor costs for construction of each—the simplicity of a two-foot glulam beam won out. The steel rod cross bracing provided lateral stability in the longitudinal direction."

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kitchen with salvaged cabinets in small house

The kitchen and living area occupies the ground level of the double-height interior while a sleeping loft is above. Hoover salvaged the kitchen cabinets from a project her contractor, Schuchart/Dow, was demolishing. The floor is masonite, the ceilings are plywood, and the walls are drywall. Polycarbonate panels usher light in from the clerestory windows.

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living room with wood-burning stove and floor-to-ceiling glass

Hoover's favorite aspect of the house is its calm mood and "the quietude and solace I experience while inside," she says. "I am also very content with the decision to heat from a wood stove, it makes the modern structure feel that much homier."

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metal and wood staricase insode small cabin

Cost-effective hot-rolled steel—steel being an Olson Kunding signature—covers the treads on the staircase leading to the sleeping loft.

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sleeping loft in compact cabin by olson kundig

In the sleeping loft, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the fir canopy of the surrounding forest. "The house faces east, so the sun and moon rise and reflect on the water," Hoover says. "The moon rising with the fire crackling is a delight. And on sunny summer mornings, the sunbeams magically shimmer off the Puget Sound and reflect onto the ceiling of the bedroom, we could never have planned this."

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bedroom in a modern eco-friendly house

A door next to the bed drops down, opening the room to its surroundings. "It's a fantastic way to ventilate the space, but also makes sleeping in the loft feel like camping when it's down," Eerkes says.

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Eerkes conceptual sketch shows how the house harnesses light and views. Even though the Scavenger Studio is now complete, collaborations have just begun between Hoover and Tom Kundig. The First Light Alaska organization is currently located on donated property with existing buildings. Kunding visited the site and plans to help redesign the structures.

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compact cabin in washington by olson kundig architects

Anna Hoover, founder of the non-profit First Light Alaska, sought a "thought refuge, a room with a view to sit and contemplate future projects and reflect on recent travels and interactions, plenty of ‘headspace’—tall ceilings—and the ability to host other artists for studio time," she says. A longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Hoover was familiar with the work of Olson Kundig and contacted the Seattle-based firm to design her abode.

Project 
Scavenger Studio

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