Tropical Modern Residential Architecture

Hart, Graham
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The purpose of this dissertation is to document and explore the design language of Tropical Modern residential architecture through its history and many built manifestations. Tropical, here, refers loosely to architecture built in the climatic zones of the tropics and sub-tropics around the world including other areas of the Pacific region. Modern refers to architecture designed with methodologies that stem from the Modernist architectural idiom but are not limited to work built in that era. In specific, precedents were researched from Tropical Modern architects such as Vladimir Ossipoff from Hawai‘i, Paul Rudolph in Florida, Richard Neutra in California, Oscar Niemeyer from Brazil, and Glenn Murcutt in Australia. Their work is analyzed by comparing it to factors for regional design put forth by Henry Seckel in his book Hawaiian Residential Architecture (1954). This body of work and analysis is then used as the foundation for a discussion and cataloging of the design language of Tropical Modern residential architecture. The design language is broken into three parts and an overview, including vocabulary, syntax, and meaning. The argument is that by considering the factors for regional design in Modern architecture for the tropics – isolation, materials, economic conditions, climate, setting, cultural background, and environmental living – sensitive, personal and responsive architecture can be designed. This concept of the Tropical Modern design language is then tested with two design projects in O’ahu. Each design has unique clients and sites, meaning unique regional factors, which resulted in two different designs built from the same design language methodology. This process is documented and broken down into the same three parts – vocabulary, syntax, and meaning. The end result is an understanding and documentation of the Tropical Modern residential design language, and a methodology for how to perpetuate a type of architecture that speaks about the poetics of place.
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