In 2000, California–based Craig Steely Architecture started designing a housing series on the Big Island of Hawaii. Unlike other architects in Hawaii, Steely decided to construct the homes on the harsh, damp, and windward Hilo portion of the Island, rather than the drier, more forgiving Kona side. He even went a step further with the placement: all the homes are built on the hardened lava of a previous eruption from the volcano Kilauea. The series, which is spread over various plots on the the Hilo side of the island, soon became known as the Lava Flow homes.
Lava Flow 1 sits high, with views overlooking the Pacific, and can only be entered by crossing a bridge cut from the surrounding lava. Massive windows overlook the craggy environment. In addition to the main living spaces, the home includes a separate studio, a large veranda, and a lap pool.
The second home, which serves as the architect’s home, is a much simpler construction. The 1,400-square-foot site sits on a concrete slab built atop the lava flow, and a steel frame comprises the bulk of it. Large glass windows wrap around the home, and a small veranda overlooks the hardened rock.
Lava Flow 3 diverts from the architect’s previous design, using slated wood instead of concrete as the major construction material. The site allows views of the ocean from all rooms, while several overhangs and slanted walls provide privacy from the nearby street. The main living area projects over a protected garden.
Located on a strip of vegetation left undisturbed, the fourth home features several trees that predate the eruption. To integrate the outdoors into the interior, the architects designed one wall entirely out of floor–to–ceiling screens.
The fifth construction is located on thirty acres of remote pasture. The architect again uses a steel frame to outline the home. Walls were built using a variety of materials, from glass, to wood, to a large screen stretching the length of the home. A walkway built on top of the pool leads the homeowners and their visitors to the front entrance. The sixth home is built on a remote location on the Big Island. The building’s simple steel frame focuses on experiential living.
The newest home, Lava Flow 7, is the architect’s first home built almost entirely with site-poured concrete. The building is largely dominated by a 140-foot-long concrete beam running the length of the home. Only three short concrete walls support the massive structural element. By building in such an arrangement, Steely was able to place sizable spans of uninterrupted glass, giving a sensation of living in the surrounding forest.
While each Lava Flow home has its own distinct design, the homes have a few materials in common sparse construction, and a focus on opening the home to the surrounding environment.