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photo of House of Light
Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

House of Light

Bellevue, Washington

House of Light

Bellevue, Washington

  • Design Principal

    Jim Olson

A couple commissioned this wood, steel, and glass house on the shore of Lake Washington as a place to display their collection of contemporary art and to entertain fellow art enthusiasts. On the landward side, the site is anchored by a 130-foot-long sculpture by Richard Serra. On the lake side, reflecting pools step down from the facade, mediating between the house and the water. A slatted metal canopy shades the interior from direct sun, while allowing glimpses of the sky through large spans of glass. Buffalo grass on the flat roof and trellises with hanging vines integrate the house and garden.

Major artworks are installed in a two-story, top-lighted gallery—the luminous spine of the house—and in the airy rooms to either side. Natural illumination from a linear sky-light and clerestories is filtered through a transparent fabric scrim at ceiling level. At the east end of the gallery is a site-specific skyspace installation by James Turrell. Throughout the house, a strong sense of axiality and order prevails. Public rooms for entertaining lead into each other at the center of the plan, while informal and intimate rooms are located to either end of the gallery, with bedrooms on the second level.

Outside, the horizontal lines of the patio culminate in long trellises on the house; the trellises also serve to protect the artwork inside from direct sunlight. The house is reflected in the highly polished surface of a sculpture by Anish Kapoor.

The twenty foot‑tall ceiling creates a monumental scale while the twelve‑foot‑high ledges on each side relate more to human scale. To experience this room is to feel uplifted and comfortable all at once.  Jim Olson, FAIA




Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, American Architecture Award



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