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Maxon Studio

Olson Kundig

Carnation, WA, United States

November 2022


Tom Kundig (Design Principal)


Edward Lalonde (Principal), Phil Turner (Gizmologist), Lou Maxon (General Contractor), Alpine Welding (Steel Fabrication), MCE Structural Consultants (Structural Engineer


Lou and Kim Maxon


Aaron Leitz


Like a traditional caboose, the traditional office of the railroad, Maxon Studio is a workspace to provide creative support for agencies and brands alike. Its lower level is the main working space, with a built-in desk and numerous shelves for storage and display. A steel-clad wall allows the workspace to be surrounded by visually inspiring materials that can be easily replaced as creative themes and projects change. The upper level is accessible via a steel ladder, with a small dumbwaiter to transport heavy or bulky items. Envisioned as a calmer zone for creative exploration and restoration, this level functions much like a cupola on a train’s caboose, a high vantage point to look out across the river valley.

Maxon Studio demonstrates that a disciplined program and modest budget can lead to compelling design solutions that liberate rather than confine. The quiet yet functional steel work celebrates the area’s industrial heritage while minimizing maintenance costs for years to come. Reclaimed rail from the Great Northern, set on laser-leveled ground, supports the height and weight of the 35,000-pound train car. The studio’s unique infrastructure likewise prioritizes the safety of users. Informed by Japanese high-speed railways, the studio track includes a stabilizing bar that will prevent the tower from tipping during an earthquake.


Situated on 21 densely wooded acres in Carnation, WA, Maxon Studio serves as a dedicated space for creative production and quiet reflection. Complementing an existing home, the two-story steel tower is mounted on a 15-foot-gauge railroad track, allowing it to transition from a nested extension of the home’s living space to an independent, detached studio. Maxon Studio reflects the materiality and views of the original home, while translating the home’s horizontal proportions to a vertical arrangement. This contrast creates a dialogue with the existing building as well as a new experience of the heavily wooded site.

Maxon Studio's unique infrastructure celebrates the legacy of the rail industry in the Tolt River Valley region while remaining sensitive to the natural landscape. Subtle references and industry artifacts showcase the influence of trains and railway design on the project. Its fabrication is a direct response to the discovery of steel cables and railroad spikes on the site. The control panel, formerly installed in a Burlington Northern locomotive, has been rewired and adapted to manage electrical acceleration and braking. The eye-catching yellow front door matches the original DuPont paint color of the striping on Great Northern trains. Authentic wooden railroad ties are repurposed from a Great Northern Railroad relay line. Maxon Studio provides a fresh perspective of the land, its industrial heritage, and the narrative of human endeavor.


Maxon Studio presents a bold, innovative adaptation for residential use. Visitors of all ages are uniformly delighted when experiencing the studio’s movement and exploring the curated objects and industry artifacts on display within. It showcases skill in fabrication and engineering, while embracing a cheeky playfulness often missing from modern homes.

The project embraces a reduction mindset, utilizing recycled and repurposed materials in exciting ways, including the railroad tracks and ballast. Designed under the 2006 Washington State Energy Code, Maxon Studio improves upon these standards by operating as a fully electric studio. Its two-story orientation reduces the project’s overall footprint and minimizes disturbances to the natural flora. Tucked within the trees, the studio is largely invisible, preserving views of nature from the surrounding community and valley below.

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