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Drawing, Design for Chicken Point Cabin, Hayden Lake, Idaho: Big Window Gizmo

This is a Drawing. It was architect: Tom Kundig. It is dated 2000–03 and we acquired it in 2010. Its medium is graphite on heavy tracing paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Chicken Point Cabin in Haydon Lake, Idaho, is a relatively small (2,600 square feet), year-round weekend retreat commissioned by a family with two young children that typifies the personality, general architectural philosophy, and key characteristics of architect Tom Kundig’s work. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Kundig comes from a craft-based design culture rooted in the area’s industrial and timber heritage. As an accomplished alpine climber, Kundig is familiar with the rugged outdoors of tall trees, rocks, lakes, big sky, as well as with ropes and other mountaineering equipment, all of which have influenced his architectural practice. His early work as a sculptor’s assistant, fabricating large-scale welded steel sculptures, has encouraged his fascination with jerry-rigged machines and apparatuses to move and balance heavy pieces. And, as a devotee of low-tech solutions and experimentation, he enjoys collaboration with engineers and craftspeople as well as with his clients, whose goals and desires actively shape his projects.
In the case of the family who commissioned Chicken Point Cabin, their main request was that the architecture actively engage the wooded, lakeside site. This stipulation led to the building’s main feature, which is the huge 20- by 30-foot pivoting window similar in concept to a tent flap, a familiar feature from the family’s camping trips. A device (or “gizmo,” as Kundig calls it) opens the six-ton hatchway. Initially, Kundig thought of the most low-tech counter balance device possible: sandbags. Then, he explored a power-generated mechanical system that treated the immense window like a garage door. It is Kundig’s nature, however, to find a solution that actively engages the viewer with his architecture. So, Kundig collaborated with an engineer/exhibition designer, Phil Turner; together they came up with a hand-cranked device that works through a set of gears to pivot the window open and closed with a minimal amount of energy input—so minimal that one of the family’s children could use it.
The almost cinematic act of pivoting the window to behold an awe-inspiring view is an example of the dramatic aspect of Kundig’s architecture. Every interaction with the house, as one proceeds from the outside to the inside, is celebrated by a special architectural feature in a “choreographed” sequence.[1] To enter, one must pass through a 19-foot steel door, the proportions of which reflect the tall pines surrounding the house. This act is followed by the “gizmo” experience, formally and publically “announcing” the arrival of the owners. To get to the master bedroom, the couple has to climb a long stairway leading to a bridge that floats across the kitchen and living room below. On the lower level, the family is grounded at a hearth created by a four-foot-diameter steel pipe left over from the Alaskan Pipeline, which has been notched to create a fireplace and hood that also serves as a support for the steel infrastructure. This feature, like the dining table supported by a recycled spring coil, reflects Kundig’s penchant for repurposing materials in what he calls “the reinvention of the commodity.”[2] The elemental raw building materials of steel, concrete, and plywood, along with the home’s open interior spaces and the upturned roof, are intended to be a seamless extension of the natural setting.
Kundig, a partner in the Seattle firm, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen, was a National Design Award winner in 2008 for his Rolling Huts in Mazama, Washington. Kundig was also a National Design Award finalist in 2005.
This is one of five drawings for this project under consideration for acquisition. In addition to being a superb example of Kundig’s architecture, the Chicken Point project exemplifies our contemporary fascination with hand-crafted, low-tech design, which is important to document in the museum’s collection. The acquisition of these drawings also satisfies the museum’s initiative to acquire works by National Design Award finalists and winners.
[1] Dung Ngo and Tom Kundig. Tom Kundig: Houses (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), 88.
[2] Ngo and Kundig, 50.

This object was donated by Tom Kundig. It is credited Gift of Tom Kundig.

Our curators have highlighted 3 objects that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

28 x 43 cm (11 x 16 15/16 in.)

It is signed

In graphite, lower right: Tom Kundig

It is inscribed

In graphite, clockwise from top: slope window/back to start / counterweight; gizmo that / controls / big window; bag o' sand / like counterweight / @ small bridge gate / -lift up or down; Chicken Point / 'big window' / giz; axle with / bearings

Cite this object as

Drawing, Design for Chicken Point Cabin, Hayden Lake, Idaho: Big Window Gizmo; Architect: Tom Kundig (American, b. 1954); USA; graphite on heavy tracing paper; 28 x 43 cm (11 x 16 15/16 in.); Gift of Tom Kundig; 2010-10-5

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design: Recent Acquisitions.

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