Weekend Cabin Stirs Up Controversy in Washington Valley

kundig hut 660Architect Tom Kundig’s cabin designs are striking in their modern style and boxy shapes — they’re certainly not designed to blend in — and that’s a problem in eastern Washington’s Methow Valley, where a hut owned by Kundig and friends perches on a ridgeline viewable from the valley floor. Just two other ridgeline structures are visible in this rolling green mountain getaway — a still-active 1920s fire lookout on Goat Peak and Department of Transportation communications towers – and neither have anywhere near the visual impact of the cabin. Now the community is fighting to have the hut moved, and the former owners of the parcel are suing Kundig.

“The hut not only violates the ridgeline, it violates the decades of effort by this community to keep this place special and determine what it wanted it to be,” said Bill Pope, an activist with Move the Hut. “Additionally, we feel the current owners clearly violated the covenants on the property that aimed to prevent exactly this from happening.”

In early May, Kundig’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the prior owners, but at a hearing this week a judge allowed the case to go forward. The convenants, written in 1987 by prior owners, say, “All improvements placed on the property shall be constructed with constraint and special sensitivity and consideration in order to minimize the visual impact of any such improvements on adjoining parcels and on all other lands, including lands located on the floor of the Methow Valley and all other lands which have a direct line of sight to the property.”

“We don’t live up there any longer but we kept all this crap off the skyline for 50 years,” John Hayes, one of the former owners of the property, told the Methow Grist.

kundig hut 02Pope said, “The community is overwhelmingly in step on this. What you see in this area, or rather what you don’t see, this didn’t happen by accident. Over the years, decades, the community has developed a common vision to help preserve the special landscape here. Building on ridges definitely runs counter to all that this community believes in.”

Nearly 500 people signed a petition urging Kundig to move the hut farther back in his property, out of sight from the valley below — this, where the nearest town, Mazama, has just 250 year-round residents.

Jim Dow, one of the four owners of the hut (with Kundig, Kundig’s wife, and Ben Rand), said, “It’s not a happy situation. We’ve gotten a lot of negative reaction.” He and the other owners argue that they have built in adherence to the convenants.

Located on Flagg Mountain, the cabin is starkly minimal, with no running water or septic system, and is permitted for occupancy just 60 days a year. It is a much less lavishly appointed structure than the famous Delta Shelter or Rolling Huts that Kundig designed.

The Methow Valley receives about 500,000 visitors a year. “Ridgelines look like the ideal place to build in order to admire the view,” says the “Good Neighbor Handbook” produced by a valley land trust. “Unfortunately, ridgeline houses permanently mar the scenic beauty that many treasure in the Methow Valley…While there is currently no ordinance in place to limit ridgeline building, there is strong resistance to ridgeline homes.”

Photos by Bill Pope

{ 46 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Mike

    First, I’ll just say I know nothing about this situation and I’m basing my comments on what I’ve read and seen above. Tom Kundig is one of the best architects in the US. Given that the materials he chose for this hut are mostly natural and will weather over time, I’d imagine that the “issue” is the contrast of the hut against the sky from below. From an architectural perspective, I think he’s been pretty sensitive environmentally speaking. The structure uses tiny foundations and is completely off the grid. Tom tends to use natural materials that weather over time like wood or cor-ten steel. This structure has very little impact on the environment and its surroundings [again I haven't seen it in context]. Sometimes I wish people would redirect their energy and passion to fight what really matters, things like all the clear-cut logging in WA so people can have their morning newspaper. The devastation from clear cut logging lasts forever, this cabin could be removed without trace in 48 hrs.

    • Ben Goetter

      You really do need to see it in context. The aesthetics of the structure itself are not the problem. It could look like the Taj Mahal, and be built of nothing but recycled PET2 and sustainably-harvested dung from the Dalai Lama, and it would be equally offensive, because of its siting.

      This is the first ridgetop home on the Mazama skyline. If one travels 20 miles downvalley, one can see a fair bit of ridgeline construction– protection having come too late down there. We did not have that blight until now, and we thought that we had protected our ridgeline.

      More significant than the aesthetic damage to our skyline is the violation itself of the covenants and easements encumbering the property. Conservation easements are an important tool here for controlling growth and preserving some of the Methow’s unique character. If we allow one celebrity architect to breach one covenant that inconvenienced him, we not only set a precedent for future violations, we also discourage others from donating further conservation easements. Why try to protect a riparian shoreline when you “know” that your easement would be completely ineffective?

      Hence we must enforce the covenants, and chastise those who violate them. No matter how appealing the structure in question. Remember, it’s not the structure– it’s the siting of the structure.

      • Tim

        Hence we must enforce the covenants! This reply is amazing, although reads much better with an English accent, and the comment about the Dali Lama’s dung… Priceless. Unfortunately, it’s lead me to question, just what would it mean to UN-sustainably harvest dung? Shudder.

  • Dennis

    The issue is not weather Tom Kundig whittles his own wood from some mysterious perfect place with no impact – although building a road and bulldozing a building site in a pristine wilderness area is far from “enviro sensitive” especially for a 2nd or 3rd house. It is about coming into a community that has taken great pride in preserving its views and landscape, buying a piece of property with clear covenants in place to prevent the building as placed and then giving the finger to the whole community in the process. It is degrading to the environment and is ethically despicable. The property has perfect building sites on it with views that does not impact the wilderness ridge line, Kundig ignored this as well. This was done to be provocative.

  • Lou M.

    This is a stunning small building in a beautiful setting and for those who fight and battle against the inhumanity of what the architect and builder have done don’t truly know the past work of either party. As a client of the builder and architect on a separate project in a natural setting this project resonates greatly with the portfolio of work. While I agree that you should always work to preserve the natural setting where you are building this project when it is completed will be an understated addition to the landscape and not an eyesore which I’d argue there are plenty other architectural warts in the area that would take that prize. If you knew both the builder or the architect as we do you’d know firsthand their commitment to setting, landscape and environmental concerns. I hope this gets finished and people get a chance to experience the building in its intended setting so they can understand context and the beauty of the vision both parties were intending. If the original owners of the land are upset at what came later they shouldn’t have sold the property to a builder/architect that is known for daring work.

    • Kevin P.

      The hanging hut’s location cannot be supported simply because it is a “stunning” building, because it was placed in a beautiful setting, because of its eco-friendly construction materials, or because the owners are well-known (even “daring”). The physical building’s materials, the current owners’ previous work, or their professional attitude do nothing to justify their blatant disregard for covenants placed on the property years ago. If the builder and architect were truly committed to preserving the natural setting of the Mazama ridge line, they would have chosen to locate the building so that it was not visible from the valley floor. Instead, the owners have chosen to place their priorities ahead of those who wish to preserve the spirit and beauty of the region. You can have all the context and beauty of vision that you want, just don’t ruin the natural landscape and disregard the spirit of preservation in the community.

    • mike

      Taste is subjective – apparently. I love it when people just blatantly call something “ugly” without further commentary or justification. As mentioned above, Kundig is an American icon in architecture. Don’t comment on his work if you don’t have anything more intelligent to say than “it’s ugly”. Unfortunately, an all to common response to modern architecture. Maybe people wouldn’t be as upset if it was a carcinogen laden, vinyl-clad, tuscan revival atrocity.

  • Tracie

    No question Mr. Kundig is a talented architect, but I think these houses perched on hilltops are irresponsible and insensitive to the area and the people who live there. The Methow is stunning- and I would live there in a heartbeat. When I visit I always think WHY would someone would perch their house on a hilltop? They look cold and windbeaten and add nothing to the surrounding space. They stick out like a sore thumb, and I think they truly detract from the natural beauty of the Methow, regardless of their architectural pedigree. There is a view in any direction in the Methow whether you are in the trees of the valley or hills above. Just because you can build something on top of a mountain doesn’t mean you should.

    • jodi andrews

      what she said, and ben is right on: let a few folks with fame and money come into a beautiful area and do whatever they want to suit themselves counter to the community’s established rules sets a dangerous precedent. kundig has some great imaginative designs but according to info i heard from someone who has actually built some of these designs, kundig doesn’t always do his due diligence. a huge barn built in the valley wasnt given the simple consideration of snow runoff and the roof has had terrible leakage problems ever since. I’d be really upset if I had paid this famous guy to build me a place that i’m sure wasn’t inexpensive only to have unending ridiculous maintenance due to poor design decisions in a snow-filled winter climate!

      • Amos Humiston

        Jodi — I’m not sure how class resentment has creeped into this, but I keep reading about rich people and famous people and entitled people and celebrity architects and hubris. I like a nice ridge line, but I don’t like ad hominem attacks. And I suspect that the people trying to tear down the hut are the ones who are actually the rich, the elites, the Silicon Valley zillionaire entitled weekenders, etc. etc.

  • Tracie Wilhelm

    Just because you can build a house on a mountaintop doesn’t mean you should.

    I have to side with the Methow folks on this one. Regardless of their architectural pedigree, houses like this stick out like a sore thumb, detract from the natural beauty of the area and are sort of a FU to locals. There is a view in any direction in the Methow- whether you are in the valley or on the hills- so to “have a view” just won’t doesn’t fly as a justification. Kundig is revered in the PNW for his talent and aesthetic sensibilties- but I think he missed the mark on this one. Great hut, bad location.

        • Clint

          You live n Canada. That would explain why you don’t know much about the Methow and the history of this issue, how the people there likely appreciate architecture on a level that it merits, which by the way, is not just about a structure but also the environment in which it’s placed.
          This thing is an eyesore because of where he placed it. It would fit beautifully in other places, perhaps. But on the top of an exposed ridgeline visible from the valley floor it’s an insult to the environment and to the people who have to see it everytime they scan the otherwise spectacular horizon. Bottom line, this is an architect’s wet dream that should have been kept in his dreams

          • mike

            I doubt people who live in Florida, Ohio, California or even Oregon know anything about it either. I live in BC and I have a Masters degree in Architecture so trust me “I get it” – no need for the condescension.

            I completely agree that it should have been sited lower in the valley [and I felt my stance on this was abundantly clear - perhaps not]. It just seems silly for a community to get so bent out of shape over a tiny cabin. It’s not a giant cell tower, a wind farm, a clear cut or a freaking dam – it’s a 700 sf cabin! You want to see an eyesore – look at the clear cuts in Washington State on an aerial photograph. Kundig owns the property, but the county passed his building permit. Should he have sited it differently – yes – even a 50’ drop in elevation would have made a difference. Should he have adhered to the restrictive covenants – yes! But why did this happen in the first place? Why did the town/county pass his proposed plans?

            If the previous owners wanted to maintain the view planes and environmental integrity of the site why did they sell it. The reason no one has built on that site for “50 years” is because it’s a challenging site to build anything on. Like I said above, by placing it on the ridge he didn’t have to excavate or substantially alter the hillside – which is worse? If the view planes of the Methow Valley are important, the town/county should have the policy in place to protect it. Broad stroke design guidelines like: “environmental sensibility” and “yielding to the landscape” can be interpreted any number of ways. We need to be specific here. What does environmental/landscape sensibility mean and how does it pertain to this place we’re trying to protect?

            Anyway, I’ve said my piece. I’ll have to go check it out. The pictures at movethehut.org make it seem even more innocuous. I’ll read up on the backstory, but this seems to be a textbook example of NIMBYism. I spend half my life backcountry skiing, hiking and climbing all over the PNW and it’s the clear cuts that piss me off – not something like this. What about public backcountry huts are they OK? This kind of anger and passion needs to be redirected to things that really matter. I agree with what people are saying, but I also think that the town/county is largely to blame here for allowing Kundig to site the building there. Most people in North America would have built the cheapest house they could and painted it white – glad that didn’t happen.

  • Alan Watson

    I live in the Methow Valley and can see the hut on the horizon when I look out my window. I agree with Mike that there are more important issues in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this issue doesn’t deserve any of our time and attention. If Kundig would rather blot the landscape with his version of a shipping container cantilevered over the horizon than respect the surrounding community, he has the right to be a jerk. But besides the moral issue of respecting one’s neighbors, he has clearly violated the covenants on the property, which specify that any development must be done so as to minimize the visual impact on the valley below. If we are willing to ignore legal restrictions here, where will we stop? At some point legal restrictions are what protect us from clear cutting and worse.

    • mike

      Again, I can’t comment on the restrictive covenants placed upon Kundig’s property. What should be questioned is how he got a building permit for the structure. I agree with what you and others have said about placement. By placing it upon a ridge, it’s more prominent. Beyond the obvious reason for its siting, a better view and more daylight, there may be other reasons for siting the building where he did: 1] by placing it lower on the slope, he would have had to do a major excavation and/or increase the number of footings [to build parallel to the slope] – this equals more cost and has a much higher environmental footprint; 2] access – just assuming here.

      I have no idea what the property looks like [topographically] or how big it is, but yes, it could have been sited better to be in keeping with it’s surroundings. That said, 99.9% of buildings that are built stand in stark contrast to the environment they’re sited in [look around] and statistically, less than 1% of residential homes are designed by architects. If he had moved the building below the ridge line, it would basically disappear given it’s architecture and material palette. There isn’t even any visible glazing [or minimal glazing] to reflect light.

      One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people love modern technology, modern cars, etc, but they don’t seem to like modern architecture and prefer the aesthetics and inefficiencies of architecture from a bygone era [which ironically doesn't blend into the environment at all]. Part of me wonders: if this had been a white, vinyl sided bungalow [like what most people would build] and not a “cantilevered shipping container” if we’d even be discussing this.

      Aren’t there any serious environmental issues facing the Methow Valley or is Tom Kundig’s tiny cabin the biggest threat. Design is subjective, Kundig obviously likes his design and where he sited it. Should he have moved it below the ridge – yes – unequivocally, but who allowed him to do this in the first place. I don’t live in the states so I can’t comment on the building permit process.

      • Catherine

        Mike,
        Permitting authorities govern and enforce state and local ordinances but are not responsible for reviewing every covenant attached to a specific piece of land. It is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure compliance with a property covenant, and if he has violated it, it is a matter for a court to decide.

  • Lou M.

    Will follow this case as it progresses. If there were covenants usually that means they would have to be respected during the building permitting and issuance of a permit in order for building to commence.

  • Tom

    Sort of what M,A, and A say – at least in terms of fighting for what’s important.

    On the building design here (and if anyone is interested, I am in the professional design profession, so have few aesthetic thoughts that trickle deeper than most): Why did Kundig place this hut in such a prominent part of the property, in order to cause the most disruption to the natural state? A good architect should create designs that work in harmony with the natural state of the property. Surely he could have selected either a better placement that didn’t cause such a big disruption to the ridge line, or create a design that blends more naturally into it’s backdrop.

  • Scott Johnston

    The issue at center of this disagreement has nothing what so ever to do with Mr Kundig’s status as an architect, nor his esthetic sensibilities, nor the environmental impact. All those can be debated and decided upon based upon ones personal views. What is driving this lawsuit forward is the owner/builders’ flagrant violation of the covenants that were placed on this property by its previous owners almost 30 years ago to prevent just exactly what is happening now on this unique and sensitive parcel. Sadly, Mr Kundiug et al feel that it is fine to not only flout the law but also to violate the building guidelines drawn up by the Methow Conservancy to prevent ridge line building as well as the Mazama Advisory Committes’s building guilde lines that have been in place and abided by by all previous builders for 30 years.

    That ten acres parcel has several other spectacular building sites that would neither violate the covenants nor the above mentioned community standards. For those who think its small foot print means lower impact you were not the to witness the devastation wrought by the massive rock drills and earth moving equipment. The current siting was not chosen from any sort of environmental consideration. It was chosen to maximize visual impact for this owner to show the “because I can” attitude.

    If this is not about self aggrandizement and telling the community to F**** off I sure can’t see what else it is about. Do fame and wealth buy immunity from our laws and community standards.

    • Dennis

      Scott has it right, this is about someone who deliberately ignored years of precedent and decided that their fame and status allowed them to destroy a historically protected landscape. Kundig has gone so far over the line here it is no longer debatable – the only people on his side are not familiar with the Methow Valley and the unique heritage that this abomination destroys. It is as bad as any clearcut or even worse, this is the “camels nose” and forever the pristine wilderness landscape will never be the same because of this one architects unethical behavior.

      • mike

        Surely he had a building permit? How did the project get approved? I know nothing about the process in the US, but in Canada, a project like this would never have been approved if the policy and restrictive covenants were there in the first place. If the owner went ahead without approval, the municipality would have the structure demolished. Obviously I’m missing something here!? Was there a variance?

        • Brian

          Okanogan County is large, the population is small, the regulatory agencies don’t have the budget, staff, or mandate to enforce private covenants. The building certainly conforms to county setback and height restrictions. So private law suit is the only possible action that can be taken to do anything.

        • Hal

          Yes. You are missing a lot, including an understanding of the local culture, the deep local interest in protecting ridgelines from development, the local concern with setting new precedents for ridgeline development, and the political context that exists in Okanogan County.

          The Methow Valley is an environmentally and politically unique area in Okanogan County. In the past locals fought off the development of a major downhill ski area. What exists now is a very unique valley with the largest cross country ski area in the country. This cross country system has been developed with participation of land owners, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. A huge amount of effort was expended to develop a dialogue between all of these interests to both protect the valley and make it accessible to locals and visitors.

          Other land conservation groups are also very active in the Methow Valley. In every case, there is a lot of effort given to building and maintaining a dialogue between a variety of interests. That is one reason why the Hut issue rankles so much. The Hut simply appeared one day on Flagg Mountain. The Hut violates more than the ridgeline. It violates the efforts of citizens to protect the unique nature of their community. It violates the very notion that a community can chose its own destiny through open participation.

          The owners of the Hut obtained their building permit in a county that is not universally sensitive to environmental concerns. But they sited their Hut in a place that is very sensitive to environmental and aesthetic concerns. We who live in the valley are not reactionaries or back-to-nature nut cases. We are not utopians retreating from civilization. We simply have the good fortune to live in a beautiful place and want to keep it as beautiful as possible. It’s doable if people talk to each other, respect the local history, and realize that they are part of a larger community.

          Some of the people in this discussion have worked hard over the years to protect the valley’s beauty. If you hear frustration, and sometimes anger in their voices, please give them the benefit of the doubt. They are worried their efforts may ultimately go for naught. And that the beauty that the Hut seeks to exploit with its unfortunate location will slip away.

          • Mike

            Thanks for contributing Hal – your post explains the nagging question about how he got the building permit – sort-of. A few of you who have posted should be getting your thoughts and explanations on the movethehut.org website b/c the info there is pretty thin.

            This situation is no different than any other situation where local residents want to protect their community and environment from development, mining, logging etc. “Local culture and interest” only go so far, the community’s passion needs to be directed towards changing the policy or developing design guideline/restrictions for the valley. The BP issuing authority either screwed-up or the restrictive covenants in place are non-binding [or not specific enough] – either way, places like the Methow Valley need to be protected through legislation … local culture and sense of place isn’t tangible. Quite frankly, some people just don’t care and will do whatever they want – without legislation, you can’t prevent things like this from happening.

            Now that I feel slightly more informed, I totally side with the Methow Valley proponents. I felt the need to ask some questions, b/c people who are close to the matter are often blind to other perspectives. I have zero time for the destruction of wild places and I’m glad there are people like the residents of the Methow Valley who care enough to face-off against developers and the like. That said, tighter legislation needs to be in place to prevent this from happening in the future. It’s a sad truth, but developers and their cronies don’t look at land the same way, they see profit and the only thing that will prevent them from moving forward is tougher legislation.

            Hopefully, Mr. Kundig will make this right. His property won’t be much of a vacation property if everyone *hates* him.

        • John Adams

          There was a building permit. The CCR’s were placed by previous owners of the property.
          Apparently the county did not consider those. There is no ridgeline ordinance regarding building
          in the Methow Valley. For decades people have done the right thing and kept buildings off the ridges in the Mazama area. Imagine going to a beautiful mountain valley 25 years or more after your first visit there and finding the skyline as unspoiled as the first time you saw it. This is rare,if not unheard of, in the western US. It’s been that way in the upper Methow Valley however, thanks to the efforts of many. As a cabin owner there I have found so much peace in being in a place where I can ski, hike and bike, surrounded by clean mountain ridges.
          This is what the building has intruded on for me and it sets a bad precedent. I think most of us could care less about the modern architecture. I would think it was a very cool cabin if I did not have to look at it spoiling the view from so many scenic vantage points. I hope the owners take the feedback of the hundreds, if not thousands of us who want to see the mountains remain natural and unobstructed by construction into consideration and site the cabin so it is private and not visible to everyone who appreciates the pure line of a mountain ridge against the sky.

          • mike

            Great post John! You have a very balanced perspective and as I said in the post above, I hope Tom Kundig et al make this right. I also hope that the community can formulate protective legislation to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.

  • Adventure girl

    Dennis and Scott, thanks for your posting. It is like Mr. Environmentalist – Tom Kundig – tossed his own principles out the window in regards to his personal hunting/skiing hut by keeping in the back of his mind that another accolade might come his way for his innovative, in your face, design. Hello World Architecture News. Please see what Tom is doing now while screwing a whole community and setting a very bad example of conservation. Very easy to ask others to make design compromises for environmental concerns but when it is your own showcase, do what ever you want. Message received.

  • Brian

    Reminds me a bit of a house built in the front range outside Denver in the early 60′s. Have a look at this:

    http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view;_ylt=A0PDoTCcJ6pRlEIA6k6JzbkF;_ylu=X3oDMTBlMTQ4cGxyBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDaW1n?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimages%3Fp%3Dsleeper%2Bhouse%252C%2Bcolorado%26tab%3Dorganic%26ri%3D2&w=1800&h=1440&imgurl=www.onlycolorado.com%2Fimages%2Fsculptured-sleeper_house.jpg&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onlycolorado.com%2Finteresting%2FSculptured_House-Sleeper_House.php&size=650.2KB&name=Sculptured+%3Cb%3EHouse+%3C%2Fb%3Eaka+The+%3Cb%3ESleeper+House%3C%2Fb%3E%2C+what+the+future+looked+like+in+…&p=sleeper+house%2C+colorado&oid=3c347a0590bc13a1a0e13971baad5265&fr2=&fr=&tt=Sculptured+%3Cb%3EHouse+%3C%2Fb%3Eaka+The+%3Cb%3ESleeper+House%3C%2Fb%3E%2C+what+the+future+looked+like+in+…&b=0&ni=200&no=2&ts=&tab=organic&sigr=12a44q1am&sigb=12p4shg7a&sigi=11oo8cebc&.crumb=FPrDo.U6cJs&

    The story: visionary architect builds house for his wife; she hates it and never moves in; house becomes famous thanks to Woody Allen; local residents complain about it’s impact on the skyline and general ‘ugliness’; house is still there, architect is where?; no one pays attention anymore (50 years later).

    I don’t personally care for Kundig’s work, and I think this is ego gone crazy. But I’m sure he’s justified the siting in his mind, which is really all anyone can complain about. It’s his property and he can build anything he wants to pay for (or can convince someone else to pay for, as is the case with most of his work). I do feel for the people who appear to have worked hard to preserve the ridge line, only to see it violated like this.

  • Dave Rockwell

    Aesthetic value is inherently subjective. But many commenters seem to be arguing from authority: if a famous architect designs something, it must be aesthetically superior, and hence justifies the ignoring of covenants, etc., even if the vast majority of unwashed local yokels agree at a glance that it is hideously ugly and horribly at odds with the landscape. Arrogance, anyone?

    To me it looks like a leftover bit of some long abandoned mining operation. But I don’t have to look at it every time I cast my eye over the lovely landscape.

  • Jeff Joslin

    As a long-time aesthetic regulator: this is a classic. I was surprised to see how clear and inclusive and unambiguous the CC&Rs were. No one reading that simple language could find this insertion, however modest and/or clever, to be in compliance. This is a case of architectural hubris (we’ll assume not ignorance of the CC&Rs, but a deliberate choice to ignore them), period.

    It’s unfortunate that someone capable of acquiring and commissioning for such a sensitive site would not share in the responsibility and privilege that comes with the role of environmental (both literal, and visual) stewardship. That said, the challenge now is that the burden is on those with standing relative to the CC&Rs to enforce them (so much for any profit they gleaned from any sales or accrued value). Had they worked in those earlier days to establish concurrent regulatory protections, the burden would be on the regulatory implementors.

    So I say: shame on the current owners and the designer, and kudos and gratitude to those who will now have to pony up to remedy this unfortunate interventional choice. If there were a fund, I’d send a check.

    Finally: really? With that magnificent view shed and that modestly scaled object, that was the most fitting solution? At least it appears ready for disassembly and/or relocation.

  • Kurt schwitters

    Blaming the building department for not enforcing a restrictive covenant in this situation seems absurd. Even large sophisticated building departments with huge budgets and big city legal departments cannot track though every deed of sale to find covenants (I know that from a project that got built near me in Seattle that violated a restrictive covenant but met every city zoning code). Small rural departments clearly cannot be expected to do this. On the other hand the architect/owner knew of the covenant (and probably even bought the property for a lower price because of the restrictions) and went ahead anyway, knowing full well that the building department would not know. I don’t see that Kundig and partners have a legal leg to stand on.

  • Jeff Joslin

    @ Kurt: I hope you weren’t reading into my comment that this was an error on the regulators. Absolutely not, and you’re entirely correct that it is not their job to enforce CC&Rs unless they were specifically incorporated into a regulatory decision about the property.

    Given that, the burden’s now on the original owners (and their supporters) to enforce those restrictions through civil actions. If the current owners didn’t like those restrictions, they could have attempted to vacate them. Instead they took they apparently took the low road to dominate the high hill.

  • Sarah Scgrock

    I live in the Methow Valley year round with my family. We first saw the cabin last year on our way up the highway and were perplexed and astonished that a building was even up there, wondering if it was some kind of temporary station for telecom or research. It is clearly not accessible during most of the year, and seemed frivolous to be built up there. I am designer, and have an affinity for modern design, but this building alters the glacial contour of the hillside marring the natural rock outcrop on which it is perched. In my opinion it disrespects the dramatic natural surrounding in which it sits and is an example of “starchitecture”. The building may be “minimal” in its line and materials, but is otherwise grand as it imposes itself on the inhabitants below. Rather than being dominated by the grandeur of the site and innocuous, it is an intrusion. It is visible at many vantages, and clearly departs from the intention of the covenants. You really have to understand the community’s history of activism to protect this narrow valley’s landscape to grasp how offensive this is. If the covenants had not been in place, we would still be in an uproar. But the clear breach of the CCRs should be enforced and heard in court if the owners will not retract the building.

  • Mazama Resident

    For those of you responding who do not live here, you are ill informed and unable to see anything beyond an architectural structure. If I were to build a structure, so completely out of context within the confines of your neighborhoods you’d have an opinion. Whether or not Kundig is a world-class architect is not the question – stop wasting time on it. The issue he has built something he does not live in, been condesending to the community in both his responses and lack there of, defied/is fighting the court ordered injuction, and has destroyed the view/horizon of a small, beautiful, peaceful community. If you don’t live here and say anythingn about the appropriateness of the dwelling, etc., please shut up.

    • Steve

      Thank you Mazama Resident and Sarah Scgrock. Thank you.

      Growing up here, I learned that the people make this place as much as the scenery. Mazama is an extraordinary place.

      Its a real shame that Kundig has/is doing this. I frowned when I saw this hut…I imagine those 500,000 annual visitors will frown to.

  • Think Bigger

    Interesting debate. My 2 cents: If you’re a world-class architect, have tons of dough and have little regard for the environment, covenants, etc – I would hope you’d do something WAY cooler that that. The shipping container skewered by a pylon on a ridge top is far from creative or interesting. Insert about a 100 blogs with the same design here. Have you ever visited http://www.thecoolhunter.net? There you will find much more inspired and creative endeavors. I don’t know, maybe its unfinished and I’m being harsh but it looks like a reject design from Star Wars Return of the Jedi. Bummer for the people that live there and have to deal with it.

  • Jeff Joslin

    The kernel of this debate was settled decades ago. Since no one else has introduced it, here’s Wright’s definitive word on the topic:

    “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other.”

    Pointing the finger at former owners is not fitting: the CC&Rs are perfectly crafted to appropriately enforce Frank’s edict. Given those contractual restrictions and the character of the community, the designer and current owner deserve no slack, as they violated both. If they wanted an exception, they should have asked first and built later. They made a calculated decision to disrupt the aesthetic in a way that warrants: this exchange, community ire, the injunctive relief, and ultimate removal.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>