Launch Slideshow

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Natural History

Natural History

  • Made of marine plywood, the kit-of-parts entry pavilion was fabricated in Los Angeles and assembled on-site.

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    Made of marine plywood, the kit-of-parts entry pavilion was fabricated in Los Angeles and assembled on-site.

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    Courtesy Belzberg Architects

    Made of marine plywood, the kit-of-parts entry pavilion was fabricated in Los Angeles and assembled on-site.

  • Seating, a fire pit, pool, and spa extend the main living space outdoors.

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    Seating, a fire pit, pool, and spa extend the main living space outdoors.

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    Courtesy Belzberg Architects

    Seating, a fire pit, pool, and spa extend the main living space outdoors.

  • Sliding glass panels open the pavilions to the gardens.

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    Sliding glass panels open the pavilions to the gardens.

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    Courtesy Belzberg Architects

    Sliding glass panels open the pavilions to the gardens.

  • The living rooms CNC-cut glulam ceiling evokes a grass skirt.

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    The living rooms CNC-cut glulam ceiling evokes a grass skirt.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    The living room’s CNC-cut glulam ceiling evokes a grass skirt.

  • A detail shot of the living room ceiling.

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    A detail shot of the living room ceiling.

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    Courtesy Belzberg Architects

    A detail shot of the living room ceiling.

  • The living room continues out to the lanai, where a dark lava-rock pool reflects light and Hawaiian sunsets.

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    The living room continues out to the lanai, where a dark lava-rock pool reflects light and Hawaiian sunsets.

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    Courtesy Belzberg Architects

    The living room continues out to the lanai, where a dark lava-rock pool reflects light and Hawaiian sunsets.

  • The infinity-edge pool is an extension of the living room.

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    The infinity-edge pool is an extension of the living room.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    The infinity-edge pool is an extension of the living room.

  • Walls dematerialize in the master bedroom.

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    Walls dematerialize in the master bedroom.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    Walls dematerialize in the master bedroom.

  • An outdoor hallway connects the pavilions, culminating in a zero-edge reflecting pool.

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    An outdoor hallway connects the pavilions, culminating in a zero-edge reflecting pool.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    An outdoor hallway connects the pavilions, culminating in a zero-edge reflecting pool.

  • Recycled teak timbers join the garage/guest pod, living pod, and media pod across an outdoor hallway, which slopes gradually into the reflecting pool.

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    Recycled teak timbers join the garage/guest pod, living pod, and media pod across an outdoor hallway, which slopes gradually into the reflecting pool.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    Recycled teak timbers join the garage/guest pod, living pod, and media pod across an outdoor hallway, which slopes gradually into the reflecting pool.

  • The powder room wall features a pixilated photo of the clients favorite orchid, rendered in ceramic tile.

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    The powder room wall features a pixilated photo of the clients favorite orchid, rendered in ceramic tile.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    The powder room wall features a pixilated photo of the client’s favorite orchid, rendered in ceramic tile.

  • Each pavilion has a private place to wash up outdoors.

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    Each pavilion has a private place to wash up outdoors.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    Each pavilion has a private place to wash up outdoors.

  • An alfresco tub beckons outside the master bath.

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    An alfresco tub beckons outside the master bath.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    An alfresco tub beckons outside the master bath.

  • Digitally milled glulam beams suggest the structure and movement of palm trees.

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    Digitally milled glulam beams suggest the structure and movement of palm trees.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    Digitally milled glulam beams suggest the structure and movement of palm trees.

  • The pods are clad in recycled teak planks and local basalt, or lava rock, which adds thermal mass and helps anchor the structures during tropical storms.

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    The pods are clad in recycled teak planks and local basalt, or lava rock, which adds thermal mass and helps anchor the structures during tropical storms.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    The pods are clad in recycled teak planks and local basalt, or lava rock, which adds thermal mass and helps anchor the structures during tropical storms.

  • The basket pavilion welcomes visitors entering from the motor court and harks back to the island's basket-weaving traditions.

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    The basket pavilion welcomes visitors entering from the motor court and harks back to the island's basket-weaving traditions.

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    Benny Chan / Fotoworks

    The basket pavilion welcomes visitors entering from the motor court and harks back to the island's basket-weaving traditions.

 

A custom home is abstract at heart, a repository for the values and ideas that make the owners who they are, and a reflection of the local culture, flora, and history. But on Hawaii’s Big Island, such references often become clichés. Think kitschy Colonial-esque architecture, Hawaiian shirts, and the leis given to tourists getting off the plane. This house and garden, designed by Santa Monica, Calif.–based Belzberg Architects, doesn’t so much assimilate the island’s history as allude to it. As principal Hagy Belzberg puts it: “There were a series of architectural-language icons we worked toward, and away from.”

The landscape is the center of attention here, and the owners had envisioned living the indoor-outdoor life in a series of pavilions. But when zoning codes put the kibosh on separate structures, Belzberg and his team mapped out a scheme that beautifully displays the ocean view, cooled lava pools, a volcanic mountain range, and mango and papaya groves. Upon entry from the motor court, an outdoor hallway connects four pods—the garage and guest rooms, a kids’ pavilion, a theater, and the living areas and master suite—before slipping into a zero-edge reflecting pool that points into the distance. The pavilions’ giant sliders erase the lines between inside and out and allow for passive cooling.

The outdoor hallway and pools are off-axis on the 1-acre lot, oriented toward a volcano in one direction and the ocean in the other. That shift inspired the sawtooth plan and string of side gardens. Each pavilion has an outdoor bathtub or shower, a covered seating area, and fruit trees. “It’s the idea of sitting in your own garden, picking a mango, and creating a private fantasy world between the pavilions,” Belzberg says.

Materials are spare, consisting of local and recycled resources. The house is clad in teak planks (repurposed railroad ties) and stacked basalt lava rock, which also covers the patios, reflecting pool, and swimming pool. The dark pools, too, create otherworldly images, reflecting a sky swirled and askew. “Hawaii has beautiful sunsets and clouds, and the pool is a giant mirror,” Belzberg says. “In the evening when you throw open the living room doors it expands the sky two-fold. The black pool reflects the images into the room, like a horizontal periscope.”

The design of a new house asks the question: How does the architecture acknowledge its context? For Belzberg, the entry sculpture is a figurative take on an ancient Hawaii tradition in which the host presents arriving guests with a gift, usually in a basket. The elliptical, upside-down basket is made of about 1,200 woven strips of marine plywood. The kit of parts was digitally scripted in-house, CNC-fabricated in Los Angeles, and shipped to the site.

“Their cabinet maker erected it with a screwdriver in a day and a half, but a framer could have done it,” Belzberg says. He describes the ribbed piece as “a place to pause and reflect before walking into the house. It says ‘welcome’ and celebrates the threshold.” A fitting gesture for a house that frames the world around it.