Concrete house by Olson Kundig Architects
cuts into a rocky outcrop


Seattle firm Olson Kundig Architects used dynamite, chippers and saws to bore through the huge boulders of a rocky outcrop on a North American island to make room for this raw concrete house (+ slideshow).

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

Named after the French word for stone, the Pierre is a single-storey residence designed to cut into the protruding bedrock of the client's existing property, located on one of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

"Putting the house in the rock follows a tradition of building on the least productive part of a site, leaving the best parts free for cultivation," said Tom Kundig, a director at Olson Kundig Architects and the lead architect on the project.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Photograph by Dwight Eschliman

The house is slotted between two sections of rock. Its walls are made from exposed concrete, with a smooth surface that opposes the rough stone, while the roof is covered with grassy plants to allow the building to merge into the landscape.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Photograph by Dwight Eschliman

Traces of the stone continue through the house's interior, where a cave-like bathroom tunnels through one of the boulders and features a mirror that hangs down from a hole in the ceiling.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

A large living and dining room spans the length of the building and features a fireplace hearth comprising a carved rock with a levelled surface.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

The master bedroom sits off to one side and includes a sink with a basin made from another huge lump of stone, where polished sections allow water to cascade down three separate pools.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Photograph by Dwight Eschliman

All rooms of the house are furnished with a selection of antique pieces, artworks and custom-designed lighting fixtures.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

Leftover rock from the site excavation was turned into crushed aggregate for use during the construction.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

The Pierre was completed in 2010 but was named as one of 26 winners of the American Institute of Architects' Institute Honor Awards earlier this week.

Photography is by Benjamin Benschneider, unless otherwise stated.

Here's a project description from Olson Kundig Architects:

 The Pierre

The owner's affection for a stone outcropping on her property inspired the design of this house. Conceived as a retreat nestled into the rock, the Pierre (the French word for stone) celebrates the materiality of the site. From certain angles, the house - with its rough materials, encompassing stone, green roof, and surrounding foliage - almost disappears into nature.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects

To set the house deep into the site, portions of the rock outcropping were excavated through a combination of machine work and handwork. The contractor used large drills to set the outline of the building, then used dynamite, hydraulic chippers, and wire saws and other hand tools, working with finer and finer implements as construction progressed. Excavated rock was reused as crushed aggregate in the on all the stonework, a reminder of the building process, while huge pieces of rock were employed for the carport structure.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Photograph by Dwight Eschliman

With the exception of a separate guest suite, the house functions on one main level, with an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living space. A wood-clad storage box (made with siding reclaimed from a Lionel Pries-designed house) transitions from outside to inside. Its two large bookcases open to provide concealed access to laundry and kitchen storage. A large pivoting steel and glass door provides access to a terrace.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Photograph by Dwight Eschliman

Set at a right angle to the main space, a master suite features a custom-designed bed with a leather headboard and footboard set in the middle of floor-to ceiling bookshelves.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Floor plan - click for larger image

Throughout the house, the rock protrudes into the space, contrasting with the luxurious textures of the furnishings. Interior and exterior fireplace hearths are carved out of existing stone; levelled on top, they are otherwise left raw. In the master bathroom, water cascades through three polished pools, natural sinks in the existing stone. Off the main space, a powder room is carved out of the rock; a mirror set within a skytube reflects natural light into the space.

The Pierre by Olson Kundig Architects
Cross section - click for larger image

The materiality of the built structure - mild steel, smooth concrete, and drywall - create a neutral backdrop for the interior furnishings and artwork and the exterior views to the bay and surrounding landscape. Contemporary works of art by Cameron Martin, Jesse Paul Miller, Andres Serrano, Franz West, and Claude Zervas are mounted inside and outside the house. Antique furniture and art objects are complemented by custom pieces. The custom light fixtures are based on the designs of Irene McGowan, a Seattle artist and lighting designer best known for her work with noted Northwest architect Roland Terry.

Design Firm: Olson Kundig Architects
Lead Architect: Tom Kundig

  • spadestick

    Steampunk’d to the hills. Love to stay there. Great mirror detail.

  • Kate

    I LOVE IT! Everything is so well matched and all the elements fit to each other and to the landscape also. Great project and fantastic job :)

  • Adam Brcic

    I had the pleasure to see Kundig in a lecture he gave at University of Kansas. What a profound man and project. Very inspirational, and he talked about things that hardly ever make it into the design blogs and magazines.

  • Mike

    How can you devastate such a beautiful natural environment? :(

    • janine

      Devastation? Really?

    • Lucifer Sam

      It’s more of integration.

    • Michael Mtl

      I agree. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Certainly not in harmony with its surroundings.

  • rempire

    Great masterpiece!

  • rempire

    Could do with an Eames interior.

  • djnn24

    Love this building, but I swear this project is a couple of years old. Got to keep up with the times Dezeen!

    • SteveLeo

      If you read the article they say it was completed in 2010, but won an AIA award last month and that is why it has been re-posted. Got to keep up with the article Guest2!

  • amsam

    God that’s slick.

  • Concerned Citizen

    It would be my luck that the rock would begin weeping all over the floors.

  • Michael Mtl

    I just can’t get giddy over the “raw-concrete” walls for this house, that makes it look institutional, cold, uncaring, bland and unfinished. It would be better with bricks with a warmer colour, or stone that harmonises better with the natural surroundings. Nice to see the green roof though.

  • Henry Elebra sld

    True definition of “solid as a rock”.

  • Timothy Barlow

    An elegantly positioned and integrated building with flowing transition and unity from outside to the internals. Especially like the use of the huge boulders in the walls and raw stone cavernous sections. As others have said might not look so great in 200 years when the walls crumble and the natural stone is left jagged. Can’t really go back on that now.

  • amsam

    Institutional, cold, uncaring and unfinished? My heavens. The residents could stain the concrete if they wanted it to be a warmer beige-y grey. The natural colour of the concrete harmonises best with the natural stone. And certainly bricks would not work at all on this project.

  • Michael Mtl

    Boring shape, concrete shoe-box, get tired of looking at that in less than a year, and no privacy on that one side.

  • Luke Petty

    This rocks!

  • kolarisara

    Let’s create a house that’s an integral part of nature… by destroying stone by “dynamite, hydraulic chippers, and wire saws”. Great logic.

  • Anders Eidstuen

    Like: the clean shape and the concrete that cuts into the bedrock with narrow spacing between. I don’t agree that its not properly set in the landscape, the concrete will blend in nicely.

    Don’t like: the bathroom carved into the bedrock seems gimmicky and ruins the impression of a clean cut. And the boulder wall outside is not doing anything for me.

  • jean-marc Drut

    Destroying a huge rock, and call the house “integrated”? Very very strange concept. For the sake of not using land that could be cultivated, really?