Making a very large house feel more human in scale can be difficult. One of the most effective techniques used by skilled architects is to break up the house into smaller chunks. Zak Architecture successfully used that approach on this 18,000-square-foot custom home in Kona, Hawaii, and the result is stunning.

Located on five acres bordering a state park, the house is designed as a variation on a theme: assembly. The clients asked the firm for a house that encourages interaction among family members but one that maintains privacy when the occasion calls for it.

Taking its cue from the Hawaiian building vernacular of pavilions, the designers broke the plan into private spaces and public ones. It’s “designed as a residential village knit together by garden spaces and pathways,” Zak says. The public pavilions—which include such spaces as living room, kitchens, and media rooms—serve as gathering places, while the private areas are interpreted as retreats.

Unlike most houses, which feature gardens and outdoor spaces around their perimeters, this project seems more like a garden with a series of pavilion structures inserted within it. To exploit the location and the climate, the architects designed the structures to be open with moveable panels that permit breezes, views, and light. Interior bathroom enclosures, for example, open to exterior shower gardens and all of the structures allow views to the exterior.

The sections are constructed largely of exposed timber and stone, and each building “is designed to express individual elements thus clarifying and celebrating the assembly,” the firm says. “The sliding walls and intimate scale of each building allow them to open directly to the garden on all sides.”