Tom Kundig

Architect / United States / Olson Kundig Architects

Tom Kundig’s Book List

These are books that have deeply affected how I understand the world. Ultimately what I’ve taken in through these books affects how I approach my work.

5 books
Ken Kesey

This book is nuts—totally fascinating. It’s such an amazing exploration of the line between sanity and insanity. Who’s the nut? Who’s insane? Is anyone sane at all?

Norman Maclean

I grew up near where this story takes place, and it resonated with me on an almost spiritual level—the land, the personalities, the culture, the family, and the industry. I’m not a fly fisherman but I know this place and these people. Those two things: the place and the people—in all their beauty and ugliness—they somehow need each other.

Robert M. Pirsig

This is a deeply personal book for me, about how there is beauty in simple, elemental skills. Through skill, we engage the world around us in all its potential and meaning. The book helped me move beyond the overly complex and constricted thinking that typifies academic dialogue. The idea that I took from it is that what is perceived as simple can actually be the most complex and meaningful, and that often the overlooked point is the most important.

Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

This has been an important book for my career. I’ve read it multiple times—it continues to be meaningful and I don't expect that will change. Shadows are more important than objects because they enter the realm of the mysterious. The white space is more important than the stroke of the pen. Shadows are the silent reason that objects are recognized; they give them shape. Shadows represent the soul of a place or object. To say it another way, the space between combatants is where the battle takes place.

This book was a touchstone for me when I was designing Shadowboxx, on Lopez Island in the San Juans. The house’s shutters and doors create layers that can either protect or expose, and the moving parts create a drama of shadow and light. It’s really hard to capture that in a photograph—you really have to be in the space to understand it.

Alan Watts

This is a fascinating book that opened my eyes to the acceptance of the unknown as a reality. It taught me to enthusiastically embrace and enjoy the “not knowing” as an adventure, rather than being intimidated by it.

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