Architect Jim Olson leads the pack in Taipei’s The Master Collection


“Architecture should fit into its context and buildings should melt into the landscape as if they grew there”


It’s hard enough to secure just one major architect to design your project, but astonishingly, Phoenix Property Investors managed to pin down five of the worlds top names to work on The Master Collection, a luxury residential community in the Great Taipei New Town district.

Jim Olson, Annabelle Selldorf, Richard Meier, Steven Harris and Calvin Tsao have each designed luxury homes for the 28-villa hillside development. All five ‘starchitects’ feature on Architectural Digest’s top 100 list of industry influencers.

The Master Collection is divided into two developments – Jim Olson Houses and PREMIA. While PREMIA (which features the work of Selldorf, Meier, Harris and Tsao) won’t be completed until 2018, Jim Olson’s collection is recently finished.

Since launching his own practice, Olson Kundig Architects in 1966, Olson has carved himself a reputation as the architect of choice among many of the world’s most influential art collectors, with his work reflecting an innate understanding and integration of art, nature and interiors.

Olson designed five pied-a-terre’s for the project, which start at around USD9 million.

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We spoke to the man himself to learn more about his work on the project:

What appealed to you about the project?

The Master Collection is a one-of-a-kind project in the region. The development is located in the prestigious Great Taipei New Town district, a residential area renowned for its lush hills and expansive natural views. The beauty and potential of the site made it an exciting opportunity to explore how it could be utilized using quality design.

How much consideration did you give to art when designing your houses?

I think art and architecture are very similar, however, architecture is required to serve functional needs, while art is usually freeform function and is purely about things like spirit, ideas, and aesthetics.

Architecture can serve art in a variety of different ways:

– It can create a neutral backdrop for art
– It can frame out with walls, columns, beams, and more
– It can dramatize art by putting it at the end of an axis, or by providing a high a contrast backdrop.
– Art can be incorporated into an architectural scheme through ornament or murals.
– Art can become the environment itself, for example, the atmospheric work of James Turrell.

In the interplay of art and architecture, there are endless possibilities.

An art collection is often a reflection of the individual collector’s passion and aesthetic taste. The collection is like a portrait of the client’s mind. When starting a project, I study the collection and get to know my client. The design direction takes its lead from what I see and learn from my clients and their collection, as well as the site. The result is always unique and personal.

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Given that your style is often connected to nature, how did you consider the natural landscape of the hillside?

I see our environment as continuous and connected; everything affects everything else.

Architecture should fit into its context and buildings should melt into the landscape as if they grew there. In this instance, I fit all the houses into this dramatic vertical topography, which gives them a distinctive character and draw―similar to that of an Italian hill town.

I believe that architecture is subtle and acts as a vehicle to observe nature and art. Through it, I try to guide people to look at what is around them by framing particular views and vistas of art and nature. In this case, windows focus on spectacular vistas of beautiful hills and mountains that connect to the big landscape.

Finally, I have connected the residences with nature through the use of intimate gardens with pools that create a personal connection to nature.

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What do you think of the local architecture?

Traditional Asian architecture combines landscape, architecture, furniture and art seamlessly―it fits my philosophy so perfectly. I especially love the integration with nature, the casual but elegant lifestyle, the appreciation of nature and things like broad overhangs in architecture. Of course, there’s a growing number of art collectors in Asia and these houses are designed to display art collections.

This is the first in a five week series where we will be publishing exclusive interviews with all The Master Collection architects. Next week we will be profiling Annabelle Selldorf.

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