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Treading lightly on the land

DESIGN

Cooper-Hewitt's annual awards honor projects with strong ties to nature.

May 08, 2008|Bettijane Levine | Times Staff Writer

AN ARCHITECT who built guesthouses on wheels and the landscape team behind a sculpture garden at the Getty Center are among the winners of the annual National Design Awards announced today by the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.

Architect Tom Kundig, a partner in the Seattle-based firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, was cited by the award jury for work that includes the Rolling Huts, guesthouses on wheels in Mazama, Wash., designed to maximize views while treading lightly on the land. Another notable project in Mazama is a three-story steel cabin on stilts that can be completely shuttered with the turn of a hand crank.

"Levers, racks, gears, outsized hinges and wall-size shutters improbably glide into place to frame sublime natural vistas," said juror Mark Robbins, dean of the Syracuse University School of Architecture. "The dual American obsessions of industry and nature summed immaculately in the smallest folly."

The Cooper-Hewitt jury honored the Olin Partnership for landscape design. The Philadelphia firm was noted for "dedication to sustainability and green design since its inception in 1976," and Robbins praised efforts to reconfigure the Presidio in San Francisco and other iconic spaces for new uses. Recent work includes the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium and law and business schools, and the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

The Cooper-Hewitt, which has worked to increase the profile and respect of the awards, called upon eight design professionals to serve as judges, including Tim Brown, chief executive of the design firm IDEO, and Francisco Costa, creative director at Calvin Klein.

Winners were cited in a range of disciplines, including fashion and interior design. The winner of the latter category was New York-based Rockwell Group, whose projects have included the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles and Nobu restaurants worldwide.

For more information on the awards, go to www.cooperhewitt.org.

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bettijane.levine@latimes.com

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