The kinetic architectural element of the Maxon House project is a rolling studio on reclaimed railroad tracks that travels between the house and the forest.
The railroad history of Carnation, the setting for Maxon House and the backdrop for the story of the project has significant relevance to the overall design. The main residence is sited above the valley parallel to the historic railroad line that ran thru Carnation and was the lifeline for import and export of goods and services as well as passengers and mail in Carnation. In 1910 the Great Northern Railway built a branch line from Monroe to Tolt. The Snoqualmie Valley line was sold to the Milwaukee Railroad in 1917. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Co. build their branch line from Cedar Falls north to Monroe along the east side of the Snoqualmie River. The Milwaukee, as it was known, reached Tolt in 1911. Passenger service ended by the end of the 1930s, the depot remained open until 1949. The depot was sold and moved to East Entwistle Street. The last freight train through town came in the 1970s. The former railroad tracks are today’s Snoqualmie Valley Trail.
Great Northern Railway
The Great Northern Railway (reporting mark GN) was an American Class I railroad. Running from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington, it was the creation of 19th-century railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill and was developed from the Saint Paul & Pacific Railroad. The Great Northern's (GN) route was the northernmost transcontinental railroad route in the U.S. The Great Northern was the only privately funded – and successfully built – transcontinental railroad in U.S. history. No federal subsidies were used during its construction, unlike all other transcontinental railroads.
Reclaimed rail was acquired and prepped for a future kinetic architectural project that is part of the Phase II Maxon House project. The use of retired railway lines is evident in the award-winning New York City Highline project where the retired rails frame a landscape and garden high above the streets of New York City. The historical context of rail and the importance to Carnation (Tolt) also inspired the vision and plan for retired railway to come back into functional use to provide transport and shuttling of a detached outbuilding on the site to interact with and move away from the main residence. Traditional railroad engineering tactics are being implemented in the design and construction of the Maxon Railway line.
The concept of architecture that move and transform is a part of the culture and practice of Olson Kundig and owner Tom Kundig. The concept of buildings that transform to connect with nature and serve the inhabitants of the spaces allows for multiple usages and creates a sense of wonder with the pure act of connecting with the parts and pieces that transform spaces. The history of rail, the application of railroad and moving buildings and the passion for kinetic architecture all intersect in the concept and vision to bring moving buildings to the Maxon House project in a striking and memorable way.