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Tom Kundig: Houses 2, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, United States

Wednesday 04 Apr 2012

Architectural publications at their best...

Tom Kundig: Houses 2 by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects in Princeton Architectural Press, New York, United States
All images courtesy of Tom Kundig 
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A superb and brilliantly illustrated volume detailing the works of Tom Kundig 

Upon opening Tom Kundig: Houses 2 it is very easy to be seduced by the imagery alone, as the book is full of rich and beautiful photography that really expresses the architectural language of Tom Kundig. It is after this initial seduction (and I must confess I flicked through the entire book, greedily anticipating image after image before looking at it properly) that you begin to realise that the photographs don’t just show the buildings, but that they tell a story of the buildings functioning, capturing them in a moment for us to admire. What the book achieves is a complete showcase of Kundig’s work whilst informing the reader of the architectural intent and resolution throughout.

The imagery is complimented by clear and crisp architectural drawings and concise and informative short entries of text that introduce each project. The text is kept to a necessary minimum, something that adds to the quality of the book as the architecture is allowed to speak for itself, yet without a lengthy narrative to accompany it the reader can still fully understand each building through the pictorial presentation. Despite this being a review of the book itself it is hard not comment on Kundig’s architecture; the book clearly defines the characteristics of his architectural language, illustrating his masterful control in combining materials and allowing them to drive the atmosphere and aesthetic qualities of his projects.

Throughout, the book demonstrates how Kundig applies mechanical and technological interventions into the buildings that are innovative and inspiring, allowing his buildings to become dynamic and playful, something that is also evident in how his material choices control a space. All the buildings appear in the book as experiential pieces of architecture, but experiences we can imagine without visiting the spaces because of how well they are visually represented.

To accompany the book there are two short essays from notable writers in the architectural field that add a level of written intellectualism and critical analysis of Kundig’s work. These read well and give an insightful view into Kundig’s work, highlighting points that the reader might not come to from their own knowledge of architecture. These texts add a nice contrast to the rest of the book and fill in any gaps the reader may have on the importance of Kundig’s methodology when working with context and his spatial reactions to any restraints it may impose.

One particular passage in Juhani Pallasmaa’s entry highlights this strong aesthetic relation to context and materials:

“[With reference and in comparison to case study houses from the 1940’s-1950’s in California.] ...Kundig’s houses have a stronger sense of specific place, climate, materiality and weight. They are more rustic and masculine, and less utopian. The structural dimensions seem to be heavier than the sheer engineering minimum would dictate, evidently for the deliberate purpose of creating a sense of rootedness, presence, and density.”

Graphically the book is well presented and one final touch that compliments the publication is the addition of a chronology at the rear of the book. Printed on a different paper the chronology stands out from the rest of the book, and finishes the volume with a nice touch. This may be a personal preference with the graphical aspect of the book and bares no relation to architecture, but to me the presentation of the book embodies the brilliant presentation of the architectural content.

Also see: worth reading is Tom Kundig: Houses, an earlier piece of work that approaches several projects with a more personal approach from the architect.

Matthew Goodwill

Key Facts

Status Published
Value €40-45(m€)
Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

More projects by this architect

Three mixed use projects

Montecito Residence

Wing Luke Asian Museum

Triple award winner

Sun Valley Center of the Arts

Reinventing Cities

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