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May 25, 2011

In our latest Backstory series, Seattleite Lou Maxon recounts the thrills and trials of ditching the suburbs, buying property, and designing and building a modern house with Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects. Week 13: Kinetic architecture: A tour of Turner Exhibits

 

Stepping into a space designed by Tom Kundig almost always evokes a sense of wonder. As our design got underway, the firm arranged visits for our family to some of Tom Kundig’s built projects, including Delta Shelter and Chicken Point Cabin. Beyond being artfully designed objects in their respective settings, they both featured examples of Tom Kundig’s passion for kinetic architecture. The Delta Shelter has sliding steel shutters that open and close with the turn of a wheel. Chicken Point Cabin has a massive wall of steel windows that raise and lower, also with the turn of an oversized steel wheel powered by human energy and assisted with an intricate set of spinning Willy Wonka-like gears.

 

Wonder isn’t a solo venture. Kundig’s projects are the sum of his talent, the collective talent in the firm, and the network of artisans and craftspeople he’s come to know over the years. Early on in our project, Tom reached out to the founder of Turner Exhibits, Phil Turner, to engineer “wonder” for our project. The details of this venture will be disclosed in a later post but today I’d like to take you behind the scenes—to Turner Exhibits, founded in 1987 and today owned by Greg Cain and Steve Groves. The company designs and fabricates kinetic architecture systems and museum-quality exhibits and displays. My son Jack accompanied me on a shop visit to learn more about how they’d engineer kinetic architecture for Maxon House and to get a better understanding of what they do, how they do it, and how we’ll work with them on our project.

Inside the workshop at Turner Exhibits, sharing some kinetic architecture "wonder" with my son Jack. The shop offers wall-to-wall inspiration for curious minds.
Inside the workshop at Turner Exhibits, sharing some kinetic architecture "wonder" with my son Jack. The shop offers wall-to-wall inspiration for curious minds.
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A view through the clamp rack. The shop is pristine in its organization and cleanliness. Light pours in from overhead clerestory windows.
A view through the clamp rack. The shop is pristine in its organization and cleanliness. Light pours in from overhead clerestory windows.
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A close-up of an ancient and artful detail of a Turner Exhibit-owned bandsaw.
A close-up of an ancient and artful detail of a Turner Exhibit-owned bandsaw.
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Two fabricated cast hand wheels rest on a desk.
Two fabricated cast hand wheels rest on a desk.
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Jack Maxon inspects some chained mechanism components in the shop.
Jack Maxon inspects some chained mechanism components in the shop.
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Sprockets and chains rest atop a full-size shop drawing. The engineering and design of many of the kinetic creations are human-powered, rejecting current or trendy electronic solutions for more traditional and, in some cases, ancient technologies. There i
Sprockets and chains rest atop a full-size shop drawing. The engineering and design of many of the kinetic creations are human-powered, rejecting current or trendy electronic solutions for more traditional and, in some cases, ancient technologies. There is beauty in simplicity.
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VP Greg Cain explains a pivot door system to Jack Maxon.
VP Greg Cain explains a pivot door system to Jack Maxon.
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The business side of the bandsaw. A no-fly zone for anything you don’t want to leave the shop without.
The business side of the bandsaw. A no-fly zone for anything you don’t want to leave the shop without.
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Andrew Karewicz of Turner sets up a large steel tube for wet-sawing.
Andrew Karewicz of Turner sets up a large steel tube for wet-sawing.
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The shop visitor board. Sometimes doubles as a pizza lunch announcement or a mechanical detail sketch board.
The shop visitor board. Sometimes doubles as a pizza lunch announcement or a mechanical detail sketch board.
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Turner’s Mike O'Keefe preps a steel plate for the mill.
Turner’s Mike O'Keefe preps a steel plate for the mill.
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Turner’s Todd Tucker grinding steel behind a welding flash shield.
Turner’s Todd Tucker grinding steel behind a welding flash shield.
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Small discussion models demonstrate a system's operation in the early design stages.
Small discussion models demonstrate a system's operation in the early design stages.
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Turner Exhibits founder Phil Turner.<br /><br /><p><em><strong>Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our </strong></em><a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dwell/id411793747?mt=8"><em><strong> FREE app from iTunes</strong></em></a><em><strong>, friend u
Turner Exhibits founder Phil Turner.

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Inside the workshop at Turner Exhibits, sharing some kinetic architecture "wonder" with my son Jack. The shop offers wall-to-wall inspiration for curious minds.
Inside the workshop at Turner Exhibits, sharing some kinetic architecture "wonder" with my son Jack. The shop offers wall-to-wall inspiration for curious minds.

For previous installments of "Building the Maxon House," click here.

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