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Building the Maxon House: Week 19

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One of the cool side effects of hiring a fantastic architecture firm is you get the expertise of not only the architect and project manager but the collective wisdom of the entire group. Olson Kundig has a special culture and part of that is the tradition of their Thursday Night Crits. Every Thursday at 5:00pm the office gets together to put the collective genius of the office to work on a particular project. As they explain on their website, "Over food and drink, a project is presented and discussed. The free flow of ideas consistently makes our projects better, and opens up lively discussions."

As our project transitioned from the schematic to design development phase, the office opened up their doors to me and the crew of the documentary to listen in on the critique of our project, Maxon House. This was the first opportunity for most of the firm to hear about our project and it was intriguing to hear the various ideas from everyone on ways to take the existing design and in many places make small tweaks or revisions to improve the end product. And, who can resist free beer and pizza!?

 

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 19: Maxon House Critique.

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  This is Olson Kundig Architects' office just minutes before the Thursday night critique. "The intent of these discussions is to make every project in our office the best it can be—to put the collective genius of the office to work," the firm's website states.
    This is Olson Kundig Architects' office just minutes before the Thursday night critique. "The intent of these discussions is to make every project in our office the best it can be—to put the collective genius of the office to work," the firm's website states.
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  We met in one of the main meeting rooms for a lively and collaborative discussion around Maxon House. Tom Kundig opened up the critique with an introduction to our project and walked us through the initial schematic design while others chimed in with questions and thoughts. I took refuge in the back of the room and listened in on the critique (I'm in the back, in the blue jacket). There was much lively discussion around the various kinetic aspects of our project, as well as construction methods, alternative material usage, and even solar power. There are some aspects of the project that are already locked in at this stage, but there is still plenty to be decided—so ideas that come up during this meeting can potentially find their way into the final design.
    We met in one of the main meeting rooms for a lively and collaborative discussion around Maxon House. Tom Kundig opened up the critique with an introduction to our project and walked us through the initial schematic design while others chimed in with questions and thoughts. I took refuge in the back of the room and listened in on the critique (I'm in the back, in the blue jacket). There was much lively discussion around the various kinetic aspects of our project, as well as construction methods, alternative material usage, and even solar power. There are some aspects of the project that are already locked in at this stage, but there is still plenty to be decided—so ideas that come up during this meeting can potentially find their way into the final design.
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  Tom Kundig (left) and Edward Lalonde (right) tag team on the project overview, pointing out various features of the project. At the beginning of the critique, Tom and Edward pose specific questions to the firm to help frame the entire discussion.
    Tom Kundig (left) and Edward Lalonde (right) tag team on the project overview, pointing out various features of the project. At the beginning of the critique, Tom and Edward pose specific questions to the firm to help frame the entire discussion.
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  Les Eerkes, one of the firm's principals, weighs in with some thoughts and questions regarding the various kinetic features of the house. I found the critique to be extremely democratic; any member of the firm could pose questions and present ideas. It was easy to see that everybody felt comfortable discussing concepts and there were no "bad" ideas.
    Les Eerkes, one of the firm's principals, weighs in with some thoughts and questions regarding the various kinetic features of the house. I found the critique to be extremely democratic; any member of the firm could pose questions and present ideas. It was easy to see that everybody felt comfortable discussing concepts and there were no "bad" ideas.
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  The discussion gets lively as various members of the firm volley concepts around the room. One question that came up was how to create outdoor spaces; the current design didn't call for decks or terraces. Some positive ideas came from this portion of the critique that we'd explore later on in the design development stage.
    The discussion gets lively as various members of the firm volley concepts around the room. One question that came up was how to create outdoor spaces; the current design didn't call for decks or terraces. Some positive ideas came from this portion of the critique that we'd explore later on in the design development stage.
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  Here, Tom Kundig reviews the general layout of the house. Oversized plans are pinned on the wall so everyone can follow along, and even make notations right on the documents themselves.
    Here, Tom Kundig reviews the general layout of the house. Oversized plans are pinned on the wall so everyone can follow along, and even make notations right on the documents themselves.
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  Tom Kundig gestures towards the private and public areas of the residence. To provide context, he walked the firm through the design of the house and the overall design concept and rationale. He spoke about how the house would address the slope and view to the valley, and also talked a bit about our family and our need for open areas for entertaining and dining.
    Tom Kundig gestures towards the private and public areas of the residence. To provide context, he walked the firm through the design of the house and the overall design concept and rationale. He spoke about how the house would address the slope and view to the valley, and also talked a bit about our family and our need for open areas for entertaining and dining.
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  Phil Turner of Turner Exhibits was invited to the critique to discuss their involvement and the engineering, physics and potential fabrication and construction methods that will be incorporated into a special part of the site plan.
    Phil Turner of Turner Exhibits was invited to the critique to discuss their involvement and the engineering, physics and potential fabrication and construction methods that will be incorporated into a special part of the site plan.
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  A closeup detail of Tom Kundig's original conceptual sketch of the Maxon House residence.
    A closeup detail of Tom Kundig's original conceptual sketch of the Maxon House residence.
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  As the formal presentation concluded, many of the members of the firm stuck around to ask further questions and get a closer look at the plans and schematic drawings. The firm also posts site photos and maps to provide context.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!
    As the formal presentation concluded, many of the members of the firm stuck around to ask further questions and get a closer look at the plans and schematic drawings. The firm also posts site photos and maps to provide context.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

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