22.01.2014 Florian Maier

Carved Stone: Residence “The Pierre”

A secure and unexpected retreat nestled into a rocky outcropping, the residence celebrates the materiality of its Pacific Northwest site and visually and physically merges with nature.

Architect: Olson Kundig Architects
Location: San Juan Island, Washington 98250, USA
The Pierre, French word for “stone,” is a 2,500 sq-ft residence inspired by the owner’s affection for a stone outcropping on her property and the views from the site. Conceived as a bunker nestled into the rock, from certain angles the house – with its rough materials, green roof, and surrounding lush foliage – almost disappears into nature.

To set the house into the site, portions of the rock outcropping were excavated using a combination of machine work and handwork. Excavated rock was reused as crushed aggregate in the concrete flooring throughout the house and as a boulder wall in the carport. Excavation marks were left exposed on all the stonework to serve as a reminder of the building process.
While one side of the house is hunkered into the site, the other overlooks the water, balancing the dual desires of prospect and refuge. With the exception of a separate guest suite, the Pierre functions on one main level, with an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living space. Two large bookcases open to provide access to concealed laundry and kitchen storage. Throughout the house, the rock extrudes into the space, providing a sharp contrast to the refined textures of the furnishings.
Set at a right angle to the main spaces, the master suite features a custom-designed bed in the middle of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The master bathroom’s sink consists of water cascading through three polished pools in the existing stone. Off the main space, a powder room is fully carved out of the rock.

Constantly bridging indoors and outdoors, the design features a wood-clad storage box that spans through an exterior wall, occupying both interior and exterior space. Also a large pivoting steel and glass door opens for access to an outdoor terrace. Interior and exterior fireplace hearths were carved out of existing stone; they’re leveled on top, but otherwise raw.
The Pierre received the 2014 AIA Institute Honor Awards in Architecture. Jury Comments
  • This is a “wish you had done it” project; great concept, well built, and well executed.
  • The juxtaposition of the built and the natural forms is very well done and well detailed.
  • The excavation of the building inside the living rock on this site is really quite incredible; the drilled stone exposed to the interior is amazing.
  • This is a house that challenges convention and succeeds.
  • This project is a beautiful design response to a beautiful setting. It has a fascinating medieval-modern feel; exquisitely crafted.
Project data

Engineer - structural: MCE Structural Consultants
Engineer - geotechnical: Associated Earth Sciences
Engineer - civil: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
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