This House Conquers the Big Island in Hawaii

This House Conquers the Big Island in Hawaii

By Erika Heet
The unforgiving landscape of the island couldn't stop this architect.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, there’s the relatively dry and forgiving Kona side to the west, and then there’s the Hilo side. With an average annual rainfall of well over 100 inches, the windward portion of the island can be daunting for builders. But it is here, just below Hilo in the district of Puna, that architect Craig Steely has built a mini-enclave of what he has dubbed Lava Flow houses (see Dwell, July/August 2005 and November 2008), situated atop the sharp, black a’a rock formed from a previous eruption of the active volcano Kilauea. Some 14 years after the first Lava Flow house was built, the seventh incarnation in the architect’s series—for Craig Mayer, a Realtor turned amateur coffee grower, and his husband, Rick Penland, a pediatrician—is his first structure dominated by site-poured concrete. "The Hawaiian environment is completely unforgiving of architecture or construction mistakes," says Steely, who divides his practice between Hawaii and San Francisco. "One wrong move can make a house truly unlivable."

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