A housing project on the Big Island of Hawaii—labeled Lavaflow—has given San Francisco-based architect Craig Steely an ideal backdrop against which to practice his self-described brand of “reductive architecture,” distinguished by few materials and simple, clean forms. With their linear, horizontal profiles, flat roofs, and vast expanses of glass, Lavaflow houses make an obvious nod towards Mid-Century Modern architecture, but Hawaii’s particular climate injects other concerns into the building process.
“Building near the ocean, with the volcano close by and the acid rain that comes from the volcano, adds another whole level of complication.” That level of complication necessitates mitigating solutions: steel framing to combat termite infestation; orienting the houses to maximize the benefits of ocean and wind; and structural elements that leverage Hawaii’s natural resources smartly and sustainably.
“The fact that every room is located along a spine makes it really easy to activate cross-ventilation and to cool off the entire place,” Steely says. “The idea of aloha really exists. It’s that caring for people, for the land, and for each other…if you really want to understand a culture and a place, build a house there.” Don’t we just wish we could.