Framing the landscape

Lavaflow 5, Laupahoehoe, Hawaii

Located on thirty acres of remote pasture, Lavaflow 5 attempts to frame the sea and sky with a minimal structure. The slender galvanized steel frame supports walls of varying opacity; from nothing, to glass, to screen, to solid – creating a laminate of materials tempering the expansive view overlooking the Hamakua coastline on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island.


The remoteness of the site, the architect’s desire for large open expanses, and a commitment to build sustainably led to a prefabricated method of construction. Working closely with a structural engineer, the architects designed and developed a bolted structural system based on wide flange beams that allowed for long spans of steel while keeping the elegance of scale they had envisioned.

Using a specialised fabricator that normally focused on smallscale architectural steelwork such as complex staircase designs, enabled the frame to be fabricated to the required high tolerances. An off-the-shelf corrugated self-supporting roof system was integrated into the structural engineering and delivered to site along with the steel frame. The main steel structure was erected within 5 days.


The elevated position within a coastal environment and strong winds made material choice of paramount importance that was tied in with the design philosophy; slender concrete raft and an exposed galvanized steel frame. In order to further mitigate some of the climatic conditions, the footprint of the house is based on a slender rectangle with all rooms looking north towards the ocean. Circulation is restricted predominately to the south side of the house with solar gain being controlled by the use of a delicate screen that runs along the south elevation.

The narrow plan of the house provides passive cooling through cross-ventilation allowing for the elimination of mechanical air conditioning. The industrial screen filters the sunlight creating a consistent and diffused interior light throughout the day. This decidedly simple building of galvanized steel, concrete and glass provides the essential requirements for living while focusing attention on Hawaii’s dynamic environment.

Architect: Craig Steely Architecture

Image: Bruce Damonte

Posted on April 8, 2015 by untitled

Read next…

B10 Bruckmannweg, Germany

Rubbing shoulders with its famous Bauhaus neighbours, B10 makes its own innovative statement. Many aspects of the interactive house look like something from a James Bond film with its self-learning energy management system and automated facade sections. B10 generates twice…

Read more

Ellis-Miller House, Prickwillow

Now over twenty years old, the Ellis-Miller House was designed by Jonathan Ellis-Miller while working for the eminent modernist architect John Winter. Winter had built two houses for himself including 81 Swains Lane, London in 1969, which is now grade…

Read more

Galvanizing Delight

This innovative design for The Kiosk came about as part of a change of use application for the neighbouring retail unit, which had previously been used as a florist. The concept for the rippling CNC-cut timber layers of the facade…

Read more

Health Centre, Mostoles, Madrid

The Social Care and Health Centre in the city of Móstoles (Southern Madrid) has been designed with two crucial design considerations: the creation of a multipurpose space on a very tight budget. Located in an area of urban expansion, its…

Read more