spiegel aihara workshop sites tilted home on former hawaiian pineapple plantation

prefabricated architecture arrives on maui

Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) has completed the Kauhikoa Core House on the Hawaiian island of Maui. This two-bedroom dwelling sits on a former pineapple plantation, its form resembling a collection of volumes tumbling down a slope. The project embodies SAW’s ‘prefabrication hybrid’ concept: a standardized central core containing a home’s most complex and expensive elements (bathrooms, mechanicals) designed to work with various prefabrication methods or conventional framing. While pandemic disruptions led to stick-building for Kauhikoa, it remains a successful prototype for the ‘Core House’ system and its efficiency.

spiegel aihara kauhikoa coreimages © Mariko Reed

Kauhikoa Core House: compact living, open space

The 812-square-foot Kauhikoa Core House has been designed by Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) for a couple who splits their time between Indonesia and Maui. It offers two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open living and kitchen area, a 236-square-foot lofted work and storage space, and 1,000 square feet of covered outdoor space. This includes a large lanai functioning as an outdoor living room, connected to smaller lanais throughout.

The core module, a 163-square-foot unit developed with Dustin Stephens, houses the bathrooms, kitchen utilities, and mechanical systems. Positioned between the two bedrooms, it allows for an open and flowing kitchen and living area. As SAW co-founder Dan Spiegel explains, the core’s compactness maximizes open space and circulation. It eliminates the need for hallways, creating a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor living, suited to the Hawaiian climate.

spiegel aihara kauhikoa core
Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) designed the Kauhikoa Core House on Maui

the cube in the screen by spiegel aihara workshop

Spiegel Aihara Workshop’s Kauhikoa Core House is recognized by its tilted modular screen made of prefabricated teak panels assembled in Bali. These rhythmically tapering panels filter strong winds and morning sun while providing storage for surfboards, bikes, and beach gear near the outdoor shower (the primary shower for the home). The house’s shed roof and a detached garage/recreation pavilion mimic tumbling cubes, their forms echoing a mountain landscape. For the house, this roof design allows for continuous lanais, a lofted workspace with a balcony in the main bedroom, and a private guest suite nestled at the slope’s base. All indoor and outdoor furniture, chosen by the homeowners, is custom-made in Indonesia.

spiegel aihara kauhikoa core
the house is a prototype for SAW’s ‘prefabrication hybrid’ concept

The house sits near the back of the property, facing a densely forested gully. Its living areas are oriented outwards, capturing views of the Pacific Ocean and Haleakala volcano in opposite directions, while also opening towards the west for sunset enjoyment. The unique massing, resembling tumbling forms, references the waves on the horizon. ‘The landscape here is incredibly dynamic,’ says SAW co-founder Megumi Aihara. The design reflects this dynamism, feeling rooted yet playful, engaging with the site’s multi-directionality.

Maui faces challenges of limited materials, labor, and complex weather conditions, often leading to expensive, low-quality housing. The Kauhikoa Core House stands as a testament to affordable, well-designed housing. It achieves this through a combination of carefully planned spaces and site strategy alongside lower-cost finishes and a focus on a few key design elements. The homeowner, an avid surfer, even acted as the general contractor, further contributing to the project’s affordability. Inspired by the collaborative design process, he is now pursuing a graduate degree in architecture.

spiegel aihara kauhikoa core
the 812-square-foot home has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large living space spiegel aihara kauhikoa core
modular screens made of prefabricated teak panels provide sun protection and storage

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