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Let's #savethehut and #boycottOkanogan — Kundig getting sued

Jul 15 '13 10 Last Comment
J. James R.J. James R.
Jul 15, 13 6:01 pm

http://goo.gl/maps/LYp44

Let's play a game called... "Find this offensive, scenery destroying hut."

I lose. Because for the life of me, I am unable to find this hut on Google maps. And the aerial map data is from 2013. If you look at the article here — http://archinect.com/news/article/77141277/lawsuit-filed-against-architect-tom-kundig — such a hideous monstrosity destroying the lives and burning out the eyes of Washingtonians should be visible from space or at least jetliner right?

Hint: Judging by pictures, it should be visible from the Mazama Country Inn.

If you think this is ridiculous as I do, tweet #savethehut and #boycottOkanogan to let @MethowNews you think this makes their community look poorly.

 

JonathanLivingston
Jul 15, 13 6:51 pm

Save the hut, as opposed to the scenery of an entire valley? This is yet another case of a wealthy person doing something simply because they can with an interest only in their own perspective.

James why do you feel the need to defend it? 

Interestingly Kundig and this client have a history of pushing the boundaries of this valley, with his critically acclaimed rolling huts which from what I gather are for the same client. I don't think they are going to get away with this one though, there is too much public outcry, which is understandable given how visible it is from the ground perspective. 

The fact that you can't see it on Google earth imagery doesn't mean much. To really understand the issue you need to spend some time there. Breaking this ridge line with something artificial is a big move. This valley is a mostly a play place for people from Seattle, especially during the winter. They come there to vacation after the dark grey sky of Seattle the blue clear of the eastern slope of the cascades is a beautiful thing. Peoples eyes naturally follow the ridgeline, soak in how bright the sky is in contrast to the ridgeline and that is what makes the Methow valley so enjoyable. Kundig should have known this and he should have steered his client towards a better concept and orientation. This public reaction should be no surprise.

J. James R.J. James R.
Jul 15, 13 9:21 pm

View easements are some of the most restrictive covenants around and a relic of the 1926 highly racially-dividing Corrigan v. Buckley. While Corrigan v. Buckley established legal racial land covenants, many of them continued to exist, sans racial language, because of the 1946 Supreme Court case Shelley v. Kraemer.

The problem with this case is that it will determine what exactly constitutes a view and at what point in the horizon may someone's property be negatively impacted. View covenants were originally designed to stop buildings from being built literally in front of your window— in cities that don't specifically have view covenants, they have the more apt and appropriate covenants and municipal codes regarding access to light and air.

View covenants have been expanded from allowing simple views to obliterating the possibility of apartment buildings. If one allows apartment buildings, those people might move in. It's now been used to eliminate all two-story or higher buildings in many neighborhoods and is even being used to make people cut down their trees.

If this succeeds, it will set a precedent that anyone at any place within the maximum range of visibility — about 7 miles give or take a mile for elevation differences  — will now be allowed to determine what they do and don't like looking at and will use view covenants to eliminate any potential disagreeable building or person inhabiting said building.

This could be a blow for architecture in Washington as any single contentious building could be categorized as an infringement of scenery. And if this goes to district or federal court, the results of even more restrictive covenants could spill into other states.

Joseph WassellJoseph Wassell
Jul 15, 13 10:29 pm

I've only seen it from one photo, which may or may not have a bias in it's making, so I want to reserve my judgement, but I'm having my doubts.

I am on board with the basic premise of your argument, but at the same time, if it were a CMU cube with an antennae for ___(insert your wireless provider's name here), I'd want it torn down, too.  And, if that were the case, some licensed architect would have probably been stamping the drawing for it's construction as well.  At what point does an architect have the autonomy to dictate that his/her design can cross that line?  Do you believe that any FAIA can sign off on something that obscures an otherwise undisturbed landscape, or maybe even ignore certain building codes altogether for the sake of capital "A" Architecture?  (I trust you don't, but we all have our slippery slopes to slide down for the sake of making a point)

I do believe the architecture community should be able to collectively have some sort of ability to stand behind and support an architect who faces such troubles (Jorn Utzon's experience with the Sydney Opera House comes to mind), and I do admire many of Kundig's projects, but I don't immediately see this particular project as something to rally behind.  That isn't to say my view might change, if/when I can see the project more comprehensively.  It really comes down to a threshold question, at what point is a project worth rallying behind to save.

This work may be less intrusive than perceived via the one photo I've seen, and it may be a fine piece of groundbreaking architecture that is worth saving.  Given that even the inhabit pole is in favor of it to be moved, however, I have a hard time believing it.

--

I'm more intrigued by the wording of 'moved' rather than 'removed.'  If this is as site sensitive as possible, can it be uprooted easily?  Is the other side of that hill (beyond the sight of the valley) really that much worse that it would be worth fighting?  I don't know the area, so it may just be a different group of people to fight, but I'm curious none-the-less.  Would the resources spent fighting to save it be better spent helping to move it?  I'm just ruminating..

JonathanLivingston
Jul 15, 13 11:01 pm

I don't think this is the watershed case that you think it is James.  This has nothing to do with race either so to lump any land covenant in with Corrigan v. Buckley. and Shelley v. Kraemer. is really more of an incendiary correlation.

The fact of the matter is that the land owner knew about these covenants before they bought the land. So at the very least the owner and possibly also Kundig's office knew about these covenants and said meh lets do it anyway. That's the problem, You can't just enter into a contract and then decide it doesn't apply to you because you can afford to do otherwise. 

I really like most of Tom Kundigs work, his projects usually have great craft and eloquent use of materials. He has done some fabulous high end stuff but his developer/market rate stuff falls far short. I have a much greater respect for architects who do their research, understand the constraints they are designing with and find creative ways to achieve their clients goals within those constraints. To me this is heavy handed, and egotistical way of giving the client what they wanted. 

Joseph, you should really take a trip out there if you ever get the chance, it is a very dramatic valley. The valley around 20 is much steeper then the ones on other sides and has a larger flat area around the river, which is probably why it was first homesteaded. the steep walls of the valley, the fact that you have to go over a fairly steep pass to get there and the wide bucolic floor of the valley all serve to give it rare isolated feeling. having something perched on the top looking down at the inhabitants of the valley is bound to feel make you feel a little uneasy and at the very least detract from the isolation that give the valley it's identity.

jla-x
Jul 16, 13 2:05 am


What does this have to do with conservation?  All they care about is the aesthetic of the view not the impact on the ecology. This is a shallow argument for conservation.  Also, if they move it then there will be further disruption to the ecology.  Seems like a nimby kinda thing not a conservation thing.  Meanwhile the glaciers are shrinking but that's ok because we can't see them anyway....


bowling_ball
Jul 16, 13 9:30 am

jla-x, I think you're on to something....

Also, a peripheral issue, but there's also a theory that says if you install something to attract people to an area, you're contributing to the area's continued use and conservation.

Anyway, yeah, it disrupts a view, but it doesn't appear to be egregious or anything.  You can make the argument about the CMU cube and how we'd all want that moved, but the thing is, it's NOT a CMU cube, it's a decent little building and certainly not an eyesore.

heavymetalarchitecture
Jul 16, 13 10:22 am

I'm more interested in the process for getting the hut built. Did it go in front of review boards of some kind zoning, architectural, or not because it fell under a hunting cabin temporary dwelling? What is the mechanism for enforcing the view covenant? Suing a land owner after the place is built? Doesn't seem right.

J. James R.J. James R.
Jul 16, 13 1:58 pm

From the "OKANOGAN COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN."

Regarding height restrictions:

"POLICY: Allow housing in commercial areas that is complimentary to commercial activities, for example, second floor apartments, except where increased building height restricts views."

"POLICY: Homes and other structures should be clustered and not exceed the height of surrounding trees."

On "visual sensitivity:" As the community grows, pressures will increase to develop visually sensitive lands. It is the purpose of this plan, through the establishment of community goals and policies, to provide the frame of reference necessary for the implementation of ordinances to insure that future developments blend and conform to the established character of this area.

"Visually sensitive features exist throughout the planning area."

"POLICY: Mountains and valley walls such as Lucky Jim Bluff, Goat Wall, Goat Peak, Last Chance Peak, Grizzly Peak and Spokane Gulch should be managed by the Forest Service in a visually sensitive way."

"Protection and mitigation of environmentally and visually sensitive areas should be  accomplished through good design, landscaping, site planning, and where required, acquisition."

"The Open Space Committee would be charged with identifying and prioritizing key open space areas, view and migration corridors and other visually sensitive lands, then working with the community and County to develop plans and strategies for protection and/or restoration of these areas. One result of the committee’s work is intended to be an “Open Space Overlay” map to provide landowners with guidance for the protection of priority open space areas and a “View Corridor Map” which is intended to illustrate priority view opportunities in the planning area."

"POLICY: Discourage construction of roadways in environmentally and visually sensitive areas."

 

The problem with this entire comprehensive plan is it is entirely subjective — the plan aims to preserve "rural character," "historical characteristics," "visual sensitivity," "Historical value as past settlement," and so on.

Because Washington State has actual laws protecting the views and impacts of its stream system, Kundig could actually argue that the entire city is disrupting his view of the stream, the riparian areas of the valley and the lack of "good design" blights the visual sensitive areas from the vantage point of his eagle's-shack.

And that's why I lumped it in with Corrigan v. Buckley. and Shelley v. Kraemer because it's not incendiary — poorly-worded unspecific covenants and easements are tools used to bully and to deny people of the ability to the fair use of property. A cursory reading shows with the exception of poorly-defined visual sensitivity, this building meets all other aspects of the comprehensive plan.

What to complain about this building legitimate? Find a way that it posses an immediate threat or otherwise poses a measurable danger to the health and safety of the community.

The issue is that the comprehensive plan actually encourages this kind of development with special exclusions for tourist and lodging attractions — if this was about protecting the valley ridges, they should have established a planning exclusion zone for all development about X amount of feet.

The larger issue isn't violating the view. The issue is that they don't like the way he violated the view.

heavymetalarchitecture
Jul 16, 13 5:17 pm

"The larger issue isn't violating the view. The issue is that they don't like the way he violated the view."

Well put.

boy in a well
Jul 17, 13 3:13 am

there's a caption on one of the photos - forget what newspaper webpage its on

goes something like this:

'photo taken with telephoto lens by attorney'

if you need a telephoto lens to show how disruptive something is, seems it might not be so disruptive? there's also a photo on the movethehut site where the hut is a dark dot the size of a tree. but I don't know the lay of the land and cant tell the degree to which the dot might be more of an angry black smudge, if at all.

seems that the one of the couples filing the suit had to go and buy a piece of kundig's neighbor's property to keep the specific covenants of the sale in play. I suppose all's fair for the eco-warriors?

it sucks when the hillsides and ridges get developed, but kundig has a fair argument about what constitutes sensitivity: the building only touches the ground in two spots. seems to be literally as undisruptive as a building could get. this is all mies' fault.

its hard to tell how it sits on the slope/ridge without more pics or maps. the combination of the projection and the perspective looking up will always make it more visually intrusive - but as architects - we'd probably say visually striking. Im willing to lose a little ridge for some excellence.

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