Hawaii has quite a pedigree for modernist architecture. Indeed, this website recently covered Vladimir Ossipoff’s famous Goodsill House, which clearly captured the curious fusion of Japanese and American modernist influences in a style that has come to be called “kama’aina” architecture.
But this style is by no means the only game in town. Indeed, in a significant departure from kama’aina, the recently built Yeo House on the Hamakua Coast (Big Island), seems much more evocative of Mies Van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House than anything Ossipoff ever had to offer Hawaiian architecture.
Located on thirty acres of remote pasture, it was built by Craig Steely Architects, whose principal concern appears to have been the sustainable construction rather than any attempt to challenge the vernacular architecture.
Specifically, for this house the architects experimented with prefabrication systems, considering it a less impactful means of building in such a remote location.
However, after finding that standard systems were too clumsy, the architects enlisted the help of their structural engineer who designed and developed a bolt together structural system based on 8″x 8″ wide flange beams.
According to the architects, “this enabled broad spans of steel framing while retaining the elegance of scale we had envisioned”.
The outcome is a slender steel frame which permits walls of varying opacity: “from nothing, to glass, to screen, to solid”, writes the description. This has the effect of providing a subtle array of exposures to the awe-inspiring Hamakua coastline.
Among these different “exposures”, especially pleasing is the passageway along the front side of the house (the side facing away from the coastline), which features grills that cast beautiful shadows on the concrete floor.
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It’s also worth praising the entranceway to the house itself, comprised of a set of large concrete squares over a pond. This distinctly minimalist feature allows inhabitants and guests a pleasant staggered introduction to the inside of the house, where they are almost indoors before being so.
Photo by Mark Haddawy