Tye River Cabin at dusk

Death, decay, destruction? Wait, what? No, there are no plans to demolish this place now or in the near future – but years, decades or centuries from now if the retreat becomes abandoned it will decay in a visually-dynamic way, wood pealing away from a poured-concrete platform and central cast-in-place chimney.

Tye River Cabin doors open

While it is not the first worry of any architect (let alone a client), considering the way a building will weather and age both while it is used and if (when) it is eventually deserted shows forethought and imagination above and beyond the basic call of designer duty. Fortunately, Olson-Kundig Architects have a knack for thinking beyond the narrow logistical confines of a given house-as-project.

Tye River Cabin interior

First, the footing and certain core structural walls – most notably those wrapping the hearth in the middle – were poured on site and show the steel rebar holes that mark the means of their construction.

Tye River Cabin door hardware

Next, a series of wood and glass panels are layered around to complete the exterior walls, and a wood-beam-supported (and wooden-slat) roof were placed on top, as this exploded, three-dimensional axonometric rendering shows in step-by-step detail. The ‘concept’ for this part of the cabin was, in fact, a tent – in other words: a simple and temporary structure erected on a more permanent and stable ground.

Tye River Cabin glass doors

As interesting as it is to see how this little forest home came together, it is equally interesting to imagine how it would also all come apart some day. This is an aspect of sustainability not many ‘green’ designers necessarily put enough thought into. Meanwhile, its materials are also well-chosen for it to weather while it remains occupied (hopefully for a long time yet to come).

Here’s what architecture firm Olson Kundig has to say about the Tye River Cabin in Skykomish, Washington:

“Situated in a dense forest near the Tye River, this meditative retreat connects to the natural environment that surrounds it. The square base of the two-level structure is rendered in cast-in-place concrete, as is the large central fireplace that serves as the core and anchor for the cabin. Custom-designed, pivoting glass windows swing open to reveal the corners and sides of the space, blurring the line between inside and outside.”

Tye River Cabin views

“Rusted mild steel siding wraps the exterior areas not given over to windows. Deep overhangs shelter the main living area from the regular rain showers. Concrete patios extend the living space outdoors and follow the contours of the land toward the water.”

“The cabin is about being outdoors, not indoors. The two bedrooms and bathroom are just large enough to fulfill their functions. The wood used for construction—for rafters, flooring, window frames, and doors—was salvaged from an old warehouse slated for demolition. The varying tones of the wood reveal its history and use. Over time, the cabin will become more and more muted in appearance, blending in and eventually disappearing into the forest.”