This Architect Builds Stunning Homes on Lava Flows

Craig Steely’s Hawaii Island houses engage with their stark environments.

Living in Hawaii Island’s Puna district is hard. Most of the subdivisions are off the county water line and many still lack paved roads. There’s also the fact of living on an active volcano with a history of suddenly disrupting everyday life.

Puna residents have long needed to adapt to the unforgiving landscape in whatever ways they can, often with creativity. Craig Steely, a California architect who splits his time between the West Coast and Hawaii Island, is a special kind of Puna resident.

His lava flow houses engage with their surroundings rather than wall it off. And the focus is always on the experience of the space rather than bedroom number, floor space or amenities.

“There’s little you really need in a house, especially in Hawaii. You need a roof for the sun and the rain, and that’s pretty much it,” Steely says. “These houses are spaces that connect you to the land, connect you to the sky, to the outdoors and nature.

The Fishman/Kurakawa House is built in a kipuka, or an island of untouched vegetation surrounded by lava flows.


Fishman/Kurakawa House interior, with it’s absence of walls, bring the outside in.


The Mayer/Penland House sits on a hill in dense ohia forest, overlooking the ocean.


The Mayer/Penland House plays with ideas of inside vs. outside living spaces.


Lavaflow 2 sits on an old aa lava flow. Aa lava is rockier than the smooth flowing pahoehoe lava.

For more information and photos of Steely’s body of work, visit

Categories: Environment, Hawai‘i Island