Jim Olson

Intuitive & Personal with Jim Olson / Olson Kundig

Jim Olson is the co-founder of Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig Architects. They achieved so many great and one of a kind projects together with Tom Kundig and a grand team full of with architects who are specialized on their fields. The firms existence based on 1966 with the purpose of creating a bridge between nature, culture, histories and people. Through his career for over five decades, he worked in various projects such as museums, commercial spaces, places of worships but he is best known for residential spaces. All of his works come as a fresh eye to modern architecture and surely  they are beyond the time. Apart from a bridge between nature and architecture, his works are so blended to nature and landscape that it almost feels like they have always been there as a part of nature.

The existence of Olson Kundig firm is based on more than five decades, how did your journey start?

In the late 1960s, I started a firm with a colleague of mine,Gordon Walker, which we called Olson Walker. We each had a couple of clients who wanted us to design homes for them, and our vision was to fully collaborate on every design. Very soon we realized that equal collaboration made it difficult to make decisions because design is so personal. We adapted our strategy to a system where one of us would be the “design lead” for each project, with the other giving advice. It made each design decision much simpler while still fostering the kind of collaboration we were seeking.


Your projects have an amazing integrity, how your ideas inspire each others’ while creating this coherence?

Every design is inspired and informed by the client’s aspirations and opinions, as well as the site, the climate and the culture where we are building. Thus each building is unique from the others because every building’s set of circumstances is unique.


The idea of the firm is based on creating a harmony between buildings and nature, what are the things you focus on while choosing a land scape?

Like the building, the landscape design is influenced by the project site and its natural surroundings, as well as the climate, culture and client’s aspirations. My goal for the landscape is that it feels appropriate to its setting, as if it had always been growing there naturally.


Many of your projects has made tremendous impact on various countries, which one of them was your biggest accomplishment?

I think the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa is my biggest achievement. I had never designed a hotel before, but the client saw my work in one of my books, Jim Olson: Houses, and said, “if you can do these homes, you can do my hotel.” Compared to my typical house, this project was enormous, but I approached it in the same way I would a home – a very large home.


Collaborative works are sometimes harder to accomplish but there’s a great cooperation in your firm, what would you suggest to people who start to new collaborations?

Aesthetics are intuitive, personal and subjective, so clear team structure is an important element of collaboration. As I mentioned above, decision-making is much easier if one person is the “design lead” and has the final word in design decisions. Other team members remain deeply engaged and still offer advice and opinions about the design, and the “design lead” synthesizes all of that input and makes the final decision.



Intuitive & Personal with Jim Olson / Olson Kundig
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