The Lavaflow 7 – Mayer/Penland House on the Big Island of Hawaii by San Francisco-based architect Craig Steely.
Located on five acres of dense Ohia forest, this cast-in-place concrete house frames indoor and outdoor living spaces along with views of the forest, the sky, and the coastline. It continues Steely’s exploration of a reductive architecture that enhances the experience of living in this compelling environment.
The main feature of the house is a concrete beam, 140 foot long, 48 inch tall x 12 inch wide running the length of the building with only three short concrete walls supporting it along its massive span. The concrete beam allows for sizable spans of uninterrupted glass and covered outdoor space, creating a permeable edge between the man-made and nature, amplify the sensation of living in the Ohia forest.
Craig Steely was interviewed about the home by John Hill for American Architects who selected the Lavaflow 7 Home to represent Hawaii in their 50×50 project:
Can you describe your design process for the building?
The building is located in a dense Ohia forest. It was important to us to create a building that complements and embraces this environment. The main feature of the house is a 140 ft. long concrete beam with only three short walls supporting its massive span. The concrete beam allows for sizeable spans of uninterrupted glass and covered outdoor space, which creates a permeable edge between the man-made and nature. These huge expanses of openness amplify the sensation of living in the Ohia forest.
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?
It continues our exploration of a reductive architecture that enhances the experience of living in Hawaii.
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
The thinness of the house provides passive cooling through cross ventilation allowing for the elimination of mechanical air conditioning, consistent and diffused light quality in the rooms through out the day, and a view of the forest, sky, and ocean from every room. Other sustainable features include a rainwater catchment system that supplies all water used along with a solar heating system for domestic hot water. A loose distribution of spaces around the few solid walls creates a house that is equally open in all directions and welcomes nature in.
Are there any new/upcoming projects in your office that this building’s design and construction has influenced?
Certainly. Each project we do builds on where the last left off. Emily’s house on Maui and our Philippine Eagle Lodge on Mindanao in the Philippines are two where I see the most obvious influence.
How would you describe the architecture of Hawaii and how does the building relate to it?
I find inspiration from the simple single wall houses that have existed for the past 100 years on these islands. They are reductive in nature, satisfying the basic requirements for shelter in this climate – while focusing on the beauty and bounty of the tropics. These vernacular buildings, essentially open spaces, are cooled by the trade winds and cross ventilation. They use a large roof that shades from the sun and protects from the rain. I think the majority of contemporary Hawaiian architecture has forgotten these things, using air conditioning and more conventional mainland building processes. With each of our buildings we are trying to turn back this process and reengage modern life with the island environment.
Lavaflow 7 – Mayer/Penland House, 2013
Pahoa, Big Island, Hawaii
Client: Craig Mayer and Richard Penland
Architect: Craig Steely Architecture, San Francisco, CA
Design Principal: Craig Steely
Project Team: Luigi Silverman, Mary Barensfeld, Chris Talbot
Structural Engineer: Ray Keuning
Concrete Contractor: Michael Lynch
Contractor Supervision: James Johnson
Site Area: 5 acres
Building Area: 3,100 sf
Photographs: Bruce Damonte
Renderings: Craig Steely Architecture