Craig Steely lives and works in a Venn diagram carved out between two dramatically different environments: the difficult, usually steep, infill sites of the California Bay Area and the remote lava fields of the Big Island of Hawaii. This overlapping shape has become a proving ground for his architectural ideas and a place where ideas very specific to each location can coexist in the same project.
Traveling between these places retains for him a newness in each and engenders a specific objectivity and insight. This variety allows him to not only discover what is essential and unique to each project but also to hone what is fundamental in his own design process.
These elements distill themselves in philosophical and tangible ways. For example, his work is often interested in “an integration with” as well as “an emancipation from” nature. The work embraces the realities of nature and our separation/connection to it over the subjugation of it. Through various projects, his work explores ways of addressing pristine natural sites and dense urban conditions by using harmony and scale, as well as detachment and contrast. All of his buildings engage the site context while remaining distinctly separate. Along these lines he tries to advance modernist ideas of indoor/outdoor living in a meaningful way by striving to connect to the outside in more than just a visual manner. His newest work is becoming more reductive, moving towards simpler and stronger architectural gestures ruled by view, light, and orientation. It is an architecture that avoids complicated, fussy detailing to resolve contradictions in design or program.