A modular home
An acre-sized plot of land suspended above the ocean, set amongst the solidified lava fields of the volcano Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island: the landscape is breathtakingly spectacular. To do it justice required a stroke of genius. Hagy Belzberg and his staff responded with a uniquely original solution based on a micro-urban rather than a merely architectural scale, a compositional tour de force in which the built and natural landscapes merge while both remaining clearly recognisable. Instead of a single, solid structure, it is a kind of linear citadel made up of a series of organic-rationalist buildings (a total of 750 m²) interconnected by a covered walkway, a kind of „main street“ that dictates the orientation of the buildings and enables users to fully enjoy the view of the sea to the west and the mountain to the east. Each pavilion has a different function and is independent in terms of living requirements: one for the couple’s children and for guests on the side facing the volcano, another for clients on the side facing the ocean, and in the centre, as aggregating factors for family life, a multimedia room and the enormous living room, the pièce de résistance of the entire project. The living area consists of a large glass-panelled space that abuts onto a panoramic terrace organised around a raised infinity-edge swimming pool looking out over the green horizon of the mountainside, merging in the distance with the intense blue of the Pacific and its skies. Here the furnished space – which features a modular sofa by Antonio Citterio and a rug by Andrée Putman – appears to be magically and seamlessly immersed in a liquid, watery dimension, an impression that is further accentuated by a reflecting channel that runs along a side window.
This decorative illusion/allusion owes much to the contribution of interior designer Meg Joannides, who is on exactly the same wavelength as Belzberg in terms of ideas and style (they even work in the same building in Santa Monica!). Meg’s touch can be appreciated above all in the composition of the furnishings, where every designer-made or customised item stands independently but is also an integral part of a harmonious whole. A significant contribution to this sensation of continuity comes from the choice of using a single floor – not just for the living space but for the entire building – consisting of stone-effect textured tiles produced by Floor Gres, one of the many tributes to Italian style that are to be found in this extraordinary villa.
Having reached the end of this exhilarating promenade architecturale, we return to the entrance because it is here that Belzberg has placed his real coup de théâtre. A structure that combines modernity and a tribute to the island’s traditions, it resembles the traditional baskets used by Hawaiians to offer gifts but expanded to an architectural scale. Described by some as a folly, others as „the gazebo“, it is a 5 metre high arch with a tapered profile consisting of 600 plywood ribs and strips constructed in Los Angeles and assembled here on a plinth of lava stone surrounded by water. „I had originally intended it to create a wow factor“, Belzberg says. „But now that it’s in use, it has surprisingly become one of the favourite meeting and conversation points for the owners and their friends. We have even added some chairs.“ Take a seat!