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photo of Sawmill
Photo: Kevin Scott / Olson Kundig

Sawmill

Tehachapi, California

Sawmill

Tehachapi, California

  • Design Principal

    Tom Kundig

Set in the harsh high desert of California, Sawmill is a family retreat embedded into the tough, scrubby landscape. Sawmill harnesses the challenges and opportunities of its remote site, emphasizing sustainable strategies and reclaimed materials. Demonstrating that high design can also be high performance, Sawmill is a net-zero home that operates completely off the grid.

The client brief called for a self-sufficient home that maximized connection between architecture and nature, and between family members inside. Riffing on the tradition of tents around a campfire, the house is comprised of three wings connected by the central hearth in the living area. Here, a 12-by-26-foot window wall retracts with the turn of a wheel, transforming the outdoor patio into the fourth “tent” around the fire.

Tough as nails, Sawmill is made from durable materials that can withstand the harsh climate, where fires are a major hazard in summer and winters are extremely cold. The design approach was driven by a scavenger mentality, seeking always to do more with less, including using salvaged and recycled materials whenever possible. Sawmill stands as a testament to high design as an environmental ethic – a building that connects people to place.

The house, through its breathtaking simplicity, provides a calm but very smart connection with this profound and sometimes hostile place. AIA COTE Top Ten Jury

Team

Awards

2018

AIA National COTE Top Ten Award

AIA National Small Project Award

2017

AIA National Housing Awards, Honor Award

AIA Northwest Pacific Region Citation Award

Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Awards, American Architecture Award

Publications

2018

“2018 COTE Top Ten.” AIA, 19 April 2018. Web.

“Alla Conquista del West.” Azero, Sept. 2018, 66-75. Print.

Cogley, Bridget. ” AIA Recognizes The Best Small Projects In The US For 2018.” Dezeen, 6 June 2018. Web.

Comberg, Ella. “AIA Announces Winners of 2018 Small Project Awards.” ArchDaily, 6 June 2018. Web.

Cornachio, Jon. “Machines For Living: The Spectacular Kinetic Facades of Olson Kundig.” Architizer, 14 May 2018. Web.

Diaz, Jesus. “See 10 of America’s Most Inspiring Green Buildings.” Fast Company Design, 23 April 2018. Web.

Enlow, Clair. “Hilarious overabundance of good work greets AIA awards jury; 13 projects win.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 7 Nov. 2018, 1, 3, 8. Print.

Gerfen, Katie. “AIA Announces the Winners of the 2018 COTE Top Ten Project Awards.” ARCHITECT Online, 19 April 2018. Web.

“High Design Meets Net Zero: OK Wins AIA Award For Desert House.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 24 April 2018, 1. Print.

“High Design Meets Net Zero: OK Wins AIA Award For Desert House.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 24 April 2018. Web.

Hilsburg, Jonathan. “AIA Honors the Top Eleven Sustainable Buildings of 2018.” The Architect’s Newspaper, 20 April 2018. Web.

“Katoikia Sawmill.” KTIRIO, Sept. 2018, 68-75. Print.

Living in the Desert. New York: Phaidon, Nov. 2018, 238-245. Book.

“Off-the-grid Tehachapi home draws attention in architectural world.” Tehachapi News, 16 Aug. 2018. Web.

“Off-the-grid Tehachapi home draws attention in architectural world.” Tehachapi News, 22 Aug. 2018, 17, 20. Print.

Ro, Lauren. “11 of The Best Small Architecture Projects of 2018.” Curbed, 1 June 2018. Web.

“Sawmill is an off-grid canyon retreat made from salvaged and recycled materials.” Designboom, 1 Nov. 2018. Web.

“Sawmill Tehachapi, Calif. Olson Kundig.” ARCHITECT, Nov. 2018. Print.

Speros, Will. “AIA Announces 2018 COTE Top Ten Award Winners.” Contract, 27 April 2018. Web.

Testa, Caterina. “Sawmill Canyon Residence.” The Plan, April 2018, 7, 98-106. Print.

“The Sawmill House By Olson Kundig.” Contemporist, 9 Nov. 2018. Web.

Wells, Jonathan. “This self-sufficient Californian home is as tough as nails.” Gentleman’s Journal, 17 Sept. 2018. Web.

Wong, Alex. “Howeler + Yoon And Substance Are Among Winners of AIA Small Project Award.” The Architect’s Newspaper, 1 June 2018. Web.

2017

“79 projects honoured at the 2017 American Architecture Awards.” Architecture and Design, 20 April 2017. Web.

“2017 Housing Awards: Sawmill.” AIA, 14 April 2017. Web.

Arter, Neesha. “The 10 Best Housing Designs of 2017, According to the American Institute of Architects.” Elle Décor, 14 April 2017. Web.

“BIG, Olson Kundig, Brooks + Scarpa among AIA 2017 Housing Award recipients.” World Architecture, 14 April 2017. Web.

Busta, Hallie. “Daylighting, natural materials and open plans shape these 9 award-winning houses.” Construction Dive, 19 April 2017. Web.

Glink, Ilyce. “Architect picks for the 14 best homes of the year.” CBS News, 24 April 2017. Web.

Lynch, Patrick. “AIA Names the Best Housing Projects of 2017.” ArchDaily, 13 April 2017. Web.

O’Brien, Greig. “The Winners of the 2017 AIA Housing Awards.” Architect Magazine, 13 April 2017. Web.

Sanchez, Kelly Vencill. “At This High-Desert Home, a Whole Wall Opens Up When You Crank a Giant Wheel.” Dwell, 28 Nov. 2017. Web.

Sanchez, Kelly Vencill. “Family Reunification.” Dwell, Nov./Dec. 2017, 11, 78-85. Print.

Santos, Sabrina. “2017年美国建筑奖获奖者公布.” ArchDaily China, 23 April 2017. Web.

Santos, Sabrina. “2017 American Architecture Award Winners Announced.” Seriously Architecture, 18 April 2017. Web.

Testado, Justine. “Preserving family tradition with the Sawmill Canyon Retreat by Olson Kundig.” Bustler, 14 April 2017. Web.

“UW Station, winery among the NW winners of 2017 architecture awards.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 6 April 2017, 1, 8. Print.

“UW Station, winery among the NW winners of 2017 architecture awards.” Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, 6 April 2017. Web.