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Stilt Cabin

Mazama, Wash.
Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

In Washington State, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen sets its tiny stilt cabin amid the Methow Valley's four-season splendor

By James S. Russell, AIA
  Click images to view larger
  Stilt Cabin
  Photo © Benjamin Benschneider
  Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects
  Tom Kundig, FAIA, design principal
  Click here to see the people & products

In the Methow Valley, which fissures deeply into the eastern slopes of Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, a couple of weather-beaten utility buildings, a barn—steep-roofed to shed snow—and a plain farmhouse mark the 50-acre setting for Stilt Cabin. From the North Cascades Highway, the drive winds through a layer of white-skinned aspens, then a dark thicket of pine and fir, followed by a veil of scaly cottonwoods covered with wire-brush branches. It finally opens to a frontal view of the two-story pavilion, poised on thin columns, like a gangly wading bird, alert to any disturbance.

Stilt Cabin was designed to survey its surroundings. On its two habitable levels, half of each elevation is glass; unpainted steel clads the rest. The ground floor encloses only storage, a laundry room, and mechanicals because the house rises on a 50-year floodplain. A welded and bolted frame of wide-flange sections holds the whole structure together. Through the glass, the diagonal of the stair is visible, along with the planes of bleached plywood that enclose the kitchen on the uppermost level, and sleeping and bath areas below it.

Together, the two upper levels enclose a mere 700 square feet of livable space. It’s a getaway that perfectly suits Michal Friedrich, a Seattle dentist. “I wanted something tiny, only a bedroom or two, a bath, a small toilet room, and a real fireplace, so I can hear the wood crackle,” says Friedrich.

The tight plan squeezes the two bedrooms to the size of monastic cells, with tiny wardrobes instead of closets—which suits Friedrich fine. “To him, the house is a launching pad for outdoor activities,” Kundig explains. A skier, hiker, runner, and practitioner of martial arts, Friedrich has even laid out a soccer field on a former horse pasture. Near the river, he has installed a hot tub with its own outdoor shower, and is converting the old farmhouse to lodge his steady stream of guests.

Want the full story? Read the entire article in our April 2006 issue.
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