Inside OKA: Olson Kundig Architects
In exchange for brilliant design work and long hours in studio laboring over plaster molds, the 3+ year M.Arch candidates were rewarded with summer internships. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so much an exchange as it was a gift…but I like to think that we earned it somehow. All year I was crossing my fingers that I would be placed with Olson Kundig Architects (OKA) for my internship … and it worked!
View from my desk! OKA’s office takes up the 6th and part of the 5th floor of the Washington Shoe Building on Occidental and S. Jackson. Below the skylight is a double height space – there is a bridge through the middle to access skylight controls and a folded steel plate stair that connects the two floors.
Having lived in a ski town for two years, it was hard for me to imagine working a nine-to-five office job. This experience so far has taught me that office jobs don’t have to be mundane. In my short three weeks of work as an intern, I have performed several different tasks, from scanning Tom Kundig’s sketches (I think this was a failed attempt at intern hazing because it was really cool to see these beautiful hand drawings) to taking down the hardware store at OKA’s [storefront] to prepare for the PechaKucha that was on June 22. OKA operates like a huge think tank; every week there are several activities that involve the whole office. Every Monday there is an all-office meeting with a speaker, who could be anyone from within the office or someone from a completely different field. The keg is rolled out Thursday afternoons for a critique of a current project and again on Friday afternoon for Beer 30 (aka Happy Hour).
One of my favorite weekly happenings is the Intern lunch on Thursdays, where all the interns and our supervisors go on a mini-field trip then out to lunch. Two weeks ago we got a tour of 12th Avenue Iron from the two partners, Stephen Marks and Mark Christiansen. 12th Avenue Iron collaborates with Olson Kundig Architects on several projects, from furniture and sinks to Tom Kundig’s Collection of steel hardware. They have their own forge with an anvil that Kimo would die for. You name it, they make it.
When I’m not drinking beer or stuffing face at Thursday afternoon crits, I am working on laser cut files. I am currently enrolled in Model 101 with John Nebendahl, Model Master, learning the art of building miniature architecture. Assignment #1: build a model for —- (with the guidance of the Model Master, of course). The project is an —- facility for —- in —-. Oh, did I mention that it’s confidential? Although I’m not at liberty to divulge any information about the project, I can say that this model will be top-notch, OKA style. The office has a laser cutter, woodshop and 3D printer in house. OKA’s office is packed with models, from foam core study models to beautifully detailed, painted acrylic models.
Judging by the models around the office, OKA typically builds three different types of models: painted acrylic models (like the Chicken Point Cabin model), all basswood models with cork topography or wood kinetic models. The model I am working on will be painted acrylic – the end product appears to be a solid object, almost like it was 3D printed. I’ve spent an embarrassingly huge chunk of time on the laser cut files; imagine trying to build a model for someone in a different studio, all while they are still designing. The team is using Revit so I’ve been feeling my way around the program. I am constantly asking questions but luckily everyone has been more than happy to help me (help them?). Working on a model for a design that is constantly changing is definitely a challenge, but as Model Master says, “You’d never have a building if you waited until the construction documents are perfect.”
Written by Carey Moran, MArch Candidate 2014.