Outside House / FLOAT Architectural Research and Design

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© Olivier Koning © Olivier Koning
  • Structural Designer: Mark Donofrio (Convergent Craft Studio, llc)
  • Fabricators: JAS Steel, Woodinville, WA; Valmont Coatings, Tualatin, OR; ASF Ironworks, Eugene, OR
© Olivier Koning © Olivier Koning

Text description provided by the architects. The Outside House is a place to live outside. Two small pavilions shape the basics of daily life and structure an intentional relationship with the land.

The Outside House is built as a point of connection between the client and the land she stewards in upcountry Maui. Inspired by FLOAT’s Watershed writing studio (Dwell, Feb 2009), the client asked for a building that would reinforce her connection with the place. In response, FLOAT designed two facing pavilions that straddle a three-hundred year old lava flow. 

© Olivier Koning © Olivier Koning

The enclosed

Floor Plan
© Olivier Koning
© Olivier Koning
is called the Mauka after the Hawaiian word for “inland toward the mountains.” This pavilion is a tiny detached bedroom oriented to look up the lava flow and catch the first light of sunrise over cinder cones. After that brief morning sunlight, the room is in cool shade for daytime reading and napping.

Floor Plan Floor Plan

The outdoor pavilion is named the Makai after the Hawaiian word for “seaward.” This pavilion is a roofed platform that shelters a deck, outdoor kitchen, and hidden outdoor shower that are all open to views of the Pacific and the island of Kahoolawe.

The center of the Outside House is the uneven, ever-changing ground between the pavilions. The unbuilt areas of the Outside House—lichen on the lava, a curved rock wall, a growing endemic mamane tree – are the essence of daily living in this place and what the client values most.

In keeping with the client’s stewardship of the land, the pavilions are designed to be minimally connected to the ground and to be demountable. The Makai pavilion is a prefabricated, galvanized steel structure that was hand-carried, assembled by hand, and anchored to the ground with four threaded rods. The designer wove the shade panel and the shower enclosure with marine rope. The decking and cladding are milled from juniper, a tree that is harvested to protect ground water and habitat in the Pacific Northwest.

© Olivier Koning © Olivier Koning

The Mauka is light wood-frame construction, resting above the ground on four concrete piers. The Mauka is clad in reflective film on the north and south sides and with western red cedar on the east and west. Screened vents along the base of the north and south walls allow a comfortable amount of air movement and indirect light in the single room. Polycarbonate sheathing protects the roof and vents from the regular island rains.

The client is a hospice social worker and land conservationist who uses the higher-elevation Outside House as a cool-temperature retreat from work in town. She and her family started visiting this land in the 1960s. Her earliest memories of the place are of crawling through lava tubes near the now-endangered wiliwilis, Hawaiian trees historically used for canoe floats.

© Olivier Koning © Olivier Koning

The Outside House is intended to demonstrate the client’s eco-centric worldview, a perspective that is rooted the Hawaiian concept of aloha aina--love of the land.

Designer Erin Moore is an architect and principal of FLOAT architectural research and design and Associate Professor in the Architecture Department and in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon. Moore uses her teaching, research, and design practice to explore ways that architecture reflects and reinforces ideas of nature.

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