Tom Kundig On The Parallels Between Mountain Climbing and Architecture

Tom Kundig On The Parallels Between Mountain Climbing and Architecture


Tom Kundig is one of the founders of Seattle-based architectural firm Olson Kungdig. This podcast by Time Sensitive explores one of Tom’s greatest passions, mountain climbing, and how pursuit of the sport helped him become an internationally successful architect. Often when I look at architects who are as accomplished as Tom, I wonder what makes them tick in order to create such stunning architecture (for example, his Hale Lana House in Hawai with the striking cantilevered roof which got a lot of coverage in press this year).

What was his thought process in coming with that design? Moreover, how do you do develop your own thought processes that let you come up with such ideas? As Tom alludes to in his talk, when he compares the work of flamboyant architects against the likes of Louis Kahn or Le Corbusier or Carlos Scarpa, it is distinguishing between the levels of genius and nuance. As I dissected the difference, it was this quote from Tom that made sense:

Architecture is very similar in the sense that the more skilled you are with the devices that you’re using, the more skilled you are ultimately in that journey of making this piece of architecture or making that journey of climbing a mountain. I hope I’m making sense, but, really, that’s the knucklehead transformation for me, was understanding that it really wasn’t about the end game as it was about how you got to that end game, and what kind of skills you brought to that end game.

Tom Kundig

As creatives, we need another outlet that helps us grow not only creatively or professionally but personally. This hour long interview is worthwhile to understanding the mindset of an architect such as Tom Kundig.

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