In 1959 a young architecture student from University of Washington named Jim Olson spent $500 on materials from his local hardware store and set about building his first cabin on the modest grounds of his grandparent’s weekend house at Longbranch, WA. Over the next fifty years that very adventurous tinkerer would grow into a hugely successful and influential architect with commissions coming from around the globe. Along the way Olson would revisit his original cabin design four times, with each transformation marking a key moment in the continued evolution of a career belonging to a great American architect.
Jim Olson: Building, Nature, Art, the new monograph published by Thames & Hudson, opens with this story, before diving into decades worth of award-winning buildings, from inventive cabins in remote corners of the Pacific Northwest to luxury hotels in Mexico and houses for art collectors in Asia.
If you’ve paid attention to our ongoing “Arch Inspo” editorial series, you’ll have seen work touched by Olson, by way of Olson Kundig, his Seattle-based practice which he founded in 1966 and was later joined by long-time collaborator Tom Kundig in 1986. Olson’s unique ability to seamlessly integrate striking—and often sizable—structures into a natural landscape is something to behold. Across 324 pages this becomes evident—through plans, sketches, photographs, and personal reflections, the sizable hardcover beautifully illustrates the work of a man as interested in light, art, and nature as culture, craft and architecture.
The Firm has long been a favorite of ours. In Jim Olson: Building, Nature, Art, it’s not difficult to see why.