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photo of Bird Watchers’ House

Bird Watchers’ House

Maple Valley, Washington

Bird Watchers’ House

Maple Valley, Washington

  • Design Principal

    Jim Olson

Located in a rural area south of Seattle, on a boundary between forest and meadow, this three-story house was designed for two avid ornithologists. Window walls, rooftop terraces, and small outdoor buildings allow nature to be experienced close-up and in every direction. The verticality of the structure, a stack of glass boxes, minimizes the impact on the site and provides vantage points for observing birds both at ground level and in the treetops.

The cross-axial plan is oriented to the cardinal directions, dividing the house into four corner blocks. However, its massing is irregular, suggesting the interlocking volumes of a Rubik’s Cube. At the center of the house is a skylight “cosmic” shaft, a symbolic link between earth and sky; the owners display their collection of small paintings in this light-filtering core. The wood-framed structure is partially covered with metal and shotcrete. The entrance is defined by a tall gridded wall set behind a curving partition on which is mounted Philip McCracken’s bronze Bird in Flight. Atop the second story is an inhabitable roof garden with a greenhouse and vegetable garden.

Team