Olson Kundig Berkshire Residence Is Gorgeous Inside and Out.

Olson Kundig Berkshire residence

With the main level 10 feet above the ground, this modern steel, glass and concrete home in Western Massachusetts by Olson Kundig Architects opens to the surrounding forest and meadow with hand-cranked operable windows walls.

Olson Kundig Berkshire Residence

the following text is courtesy of the architect and Shepard Steel:
Set on three hundred acres of rolling Berkshire landscape, the first challenge of the project was to find the perfect building site from which to experience the surroundings. The choice was the ecotone; the border between two adjacent ecological systems.

The house stretches along the line where the forest meets the meadow. The forest provides protection (refuge)—it’s intimate, quiet, and introspective—while its meadow counterpart provides views of the valley and the low-lying mountains beyond (prospect). The building is thin enough that each room, as you move through the house, balances the two.

The main level of the house was raised about ten feet above the ground, partly to maximize the views, but also to get up above the humidity and insects in the summertime, and the snow in the winter.

Shepard Steel, who worked on the project, reports that the floor was supported by 36 inch deep, 150 foot long beams which presented a significant challenge crossing a covered bridge and up a windy mountain road to the remote site.

All of the exposed steel was of a special grade allowing it to rust to give a weathered appearance. Cantilevered roof beams supported sliding glass windows allowing for the owner to enjoy their views from inside and out.

Below you can see how the bedroom wall opens to expose the home to the outside.

And how it appears from inside the bedroom, closed and open (a glass balustrade remains for safety).

The Interior

The interior is finished with warm materials: wood, plaster, waxed steel, leather.

The living room is lined with hand-cranked operable windows walls, a common device of Olson Kundig’s. When completely open, you feel like you’re in an elegant and comfortable tree fort, hovering above the landscape. There is no sensation quite like standing in that wide-open corner, taking in the 270-degree view.

The rooms of the house are all on one side of a 150-foot-long hallway that runs its entire length and then extends 12 feet farther out at each end.

It’s intended to feel like a ship’s prow, so that when you’re standing in it, you have a Titanic moment.

Phil Turner designed several gizmos in the house, including the dumbwaiter adjacent to the entry and the mechanisms for opening the windows in the living room and bedroom. To operate the windows, you pull the wheel away from the wall to engage a set of chains that controls one window.

Then you pull the wheel a bit farther out to engage a second set of chains for the other window. It’s like switching gears on a bicycle, and it serves as a deliberate moment of physical interaction with the house. Actually touching the building, making it work, connects the occupants to their environment in a solid, palpable way, resulting in a sense of shared existence.

Design Principal: Tom Kundig
Project Manager: Elizabeth Bianchi Conklin
Project Architect: Gus Lynch
Gizmologist: Phil Turner
Staff: Derek Santo, Megan Quinn

photos by Benjamin Benschneider, courtesy of Olson Kundig and Wallpaper magazine

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