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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

Residence “The Pierre”, façade at front

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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.

Residence “The Pierre”, view from side

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Residence “The Pierre”, entrance guest suite

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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.

Residence “The Pierre”, interior, sink

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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.

Residence “The Pierre”, dining room

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

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.

 

 

Residence “The Pierre”, view from the hill

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Project data

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

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