Lake House

Location Seattle, Washington
Design Principal Jim Olson
Principal Stephen Yamada-Heidner

This house on the shore of Lake Washington is a fusion of art, nature, and sustainable design. It is oriented to respond to the path of the sun, prevailing winds, and existing shade trees in order to achieve cross ventilation and passive solar gain.

Complementing the salvaged redwood facing of the two-story façade is a dramatically curved screen wall shingled in Rheinzink alloy. It looks back to the signature curves of Erich Mendelson, who designed department stores for the owners’ family in the 1920s. The curving plane catches the morning sun as it hits the south façade, drawing it into the house and through a skylight where the rood meets the wall.

The curved wall, 28 feet-tall at its highest point and 50 feet long, is the centerpiece of the house’s natural ventilation system. In summer, the wall functions as a heat chimney, pulling breezes off the lake through the house at its lower level and pushing warmer out the top. In cooler parts of the year, the wall bounces natural daylight back into the living and dining. In the winter, air is heated by the skylight, becomes trapped by the chimney and is vented down to heat the rooms.

Installation by glass artist Ed Carpenter

Suspended just below the skylight, a dichroic glass sculpture projects colored light that traces the sun’s arc across the wall. At night, artificial light replaces daylight as the source for the ephemeral display.

At opposite ends of the rectilinear plan are a central kitchen that allows flexibility in dining indoors or out, a book-lined study, and bedrooms for the owners and guest.

The siting of the house allows the owners to open the house to courtyards and terraces, views over the water, and the garden. The flat roof is planted with hardy succulents.



Design Principals

Jim Olson

Interior Designer

Debbie Kennedy



Masonry Institute of Washington, Masonry Institute of Washington Award



Lewis, Christina. “Daylight Savings.” The Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2006, W10. Print.


Stang, Alanna, and Christopher Hawthorne. The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture, Part 3. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, June 2005, 126-129. Book.

Quill, Jenny. “Designing the west.” Alaska Airlines Magazine, July 2005, R4-R5. Print.

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