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de Reus Architects designs Kauhale Kai, a home organized as a series of modern tropical pavilions on the Big Island of Hawaii

Project name:
Kauhale Kai
Architecture firm:
de Reus Architects
The Big Island, Hawaii
Joe Fletcher Photography
Principal architect:
Design team:
Mark de Reus, Design Partner. Jason Alden, Project Manager. Ian Glass, Job Captain
Interior design:
Saint Dizier Design
Built area:
9,902 ft²
Site area:
47,337 ft²
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Structural engineer:
GFDS Engineers
Environmental & MEP:
Mechanical Engineer: Prepose Engineering Systems, Inc. Electrical Engineer: Lighting and Engineering Integrated, Inc.
David Y. Tamura Associates, Inc.
KGM Architectural Lighting
Tools used:
Cedar ceilings, local ohia hardwood cabinetry, sand grain veneer plaster, travertine, and ohia floors
Residential › House

de Reus Architects: This private residence sits within the Mauna Kea Resort on the island of Hawaii, a place full of memories for the client who recalls family vacations to the famous hotel. The clients share an affinity for Hawaii and Polynesia, for modern art and design, and for the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship. They enlisted the firm to design a modern tropical home that their family would enjoy for years to come. The design solution balances traditional forms including prominent hipped roofs identified in the design guidelines for this coastal community, while translating the spirit of Polynesian cultures through a modern sense of restraint. On a site privileged by nature, immediately above Kaunaoa Bay, this home is organized as a series of modern tropical pavilions, which together conjure the impression of a small village.

 The 9,902-square-foot residences hipped roofs are the most visible expression of its organization. The 47,337-square-foot site plan expresses an idealized diagram of spatial order. The experience of living amid the pavilions and gardens is shaped by the integrated tension of the rustic alongside the elegant, asymmetry against symmetry, and the casual with the formal. The residence is enhanced by the drama of natural stone, metal, and water elements.

The main gathering hale is one unified space with living area, kitchen, and open pantry. Interior finish materials include cedar ceilings, local ohia hardwood cabinetry, sand grain veneer plaster, travertine, and ohia floors. The owner wanted a floating glass-walled dining room, which was created with ten-foot-tall steel and glass sliding doors which are housed between coral-clad columns. Water surrounds this pavilion, then cascades into the pool below. Pools and water features are integrated throughout the plan, merging the natural and built environments. 

An outdoor living pavilion echoes the stepped ceiling forms and columns of the dining pavilion, reminiscent of those in the Majapahit culture of Bali. The two pavilions are visually connected by a shade trellis that features a center oculus over a circular water feature, the center—axis mundi—of the home. 

The master pavilion houses study, bedroom, sitting room, dressing areas, indoor baths, a bath garden, and view lanai. Outside this pavilion, on axis with the pool, an antique Balinese door is framed by Hawaiian basalt stone.

Exterior materials include copper shingles, steel doors and windows, integral-color cement plaster, cedar eaves, coral-clad columns, and travertine pavers. We selected materials that would be low maintenance and long lasting in this tropical marine environment. Solar panels are located out of sight atop the garage pavilion.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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