The celebrated architect Charles W. Moore was an early mentor of John Ruble and Buzz Yudell and the senior partner of their firm until his death in 1993. Moore often said that he and his colleagues didn’t design houses—their clients did. For Steven and Merlyn Ruddell’s residence on Kauai, this was certainly the case. Firm partner Yudell and principal Mario Violich still remember with awe that one of the couple’s first moves was to prepare for them an unusual document that was a both poetic and practical vision for the house to come.
“It was so thoughtfully considered and written,” says Violich, “and it covered everything from the hoped-for character of the architecture to the ergonomics of the kitchen—ideal countertop heights and which way the refrigerator door should swing.” Although quite detailed, it was not prescriptive about actual form, materials or palette. Instead, the focus was on patterns of movement through the house and land and how and where everyone would come together. “It was liberating to learn of their aspirations,” adds Yudell. “These were clients who were asking for a house that could be designed in an infinite number of ways.”
The site on the northern shore of Kauai borders a steep pitch that overlooks the treetops of a small forest in the valley below. Beyond is the Pacific. As important to the clients as its striking location was the fact that the property, a segment of a former farm, had enough arable land for them to grow their own fruits and vegetables. The plan of the house follows a circulation spine that links five separate, self-contained pavilions and a garage by means of passageways, loggias and garden courts.
Sequentially, from south to north, the master suite connects to the great room, which comprises the living, dining and kitchen spaces. Together, these two pavilions and the garage, with its outdoor kitchen, enfold a tree-filled lawn ideal for informal dining. The main entrance to the house is from an open passageway between the great room and a pavilion that serves the swimming pool as a spa. This splendidly placed threshold frames a view of iconic Bali Hai, the 1,280-foot-high cliff emerging from the sea. The children’s bedroom pavilion is between the spa and the guest suite. The entire house, indoors and out, is covered by a continuous copper roof supported at its eaves by concrete columns. “The columns have a strong presence on the site,” says Yudell. “They kind of dance through the spaces and give pattern to the way the family lives and moves there.”
Yudell and Violich configured the walls and ceilings of the great room and spa to achieve a dramatic sculptural effect. An asymmetrical walled and roofed volume with windows on its corners, known as a light monitor, crowns each space and brings the changing light of the day to the interiors below. The master suite pavilion has a second-floor studio, as does the guest pavilion. “The beauty of this concept of day lighting,” says Violich, “is that in the morning you get early, soft eastern light penetrating the volume and washing the interior colors, and in the middle of the day, the sun becomes much softer. Toward the evening there is a warmer light.”
To maximize exposure to the elements on a dramatic valley rim on Kauai, Hawaii, architects Buzz Yudell and Mario Violich, of Moore Ruble Yudell, designed a series of six pavilions linked by outdoor passageways. Moore Ruble Yudell Designs an Indoor-Outdoor Haven in Hawaii | Architectural Digest