Master Builder

Architect Vladimir Ossipoff and the details that made him a Master-Builder

I have always been captivated by the term, Master-Builder. It is a title that Frank Lloyd Wright carried and I believe Vladimir Ossipoff deserves it as well. I have understood it as an architect that is as involved in the construction as the builder, which is not typical. Although I stretch it one step further by only including architects that design the entire building, this includes interiors and sometimes even furniture.

I will take it even further by only including architects in this club that truly care about construction and how a building operates. Ossipoff was very conscious of how his buildings would last. It is obvious in the details and in the materials chosen given the harsh climatic conditions. He understood the demands climate well, and even further, the many microclimates that exist in the Hawaiian Islands. This is why he was able to do thousands of buildings and have a long standing respected career. Not only because his work was beautiful, but it functioned well, and he was known to have a great personality.

Thurston Chapel

The interiors at Robert Thurston Jr. Memorial Chapel are also designed by Ossipoff including the Koa wood pews.

Liljestrand House

Ossipoff also designed the interiors, furniture, and would help the homeowners select everything down to the artwork. Any changes that were made to the interior design, Betty and Howard Liljestrand would consult Val.

Fascia boards at the Liljestrand house are angled to save them from water damage.


Outrigger Canoe Club

Lava rock and concrete are used at the Outrigger Canoe Club as it is a durable material produced locally.


Pacific Club

Copper sheets line the roof edge, at the Pacific Club to keep crisp lines that get better with age.


Aiea United Methodist Church

A rainscreen protects the operable louvers at the AIEA United Methodist Church. Hefty gutters and downspouts get rain out quickly and now after many years the patina blends into the wood cladding as intended.


Ibm Building

The brie soleil is angled just right to shed the rain and not allow pigeons to perch. Ossipoff coined the design as ‘Pidgeon proof’.


Queens Medical Library

Split faced concrete block is used as an economical solution for the Queens Medical Library. The blocks were directed by Ossipoff to be cut in half to create a pleasing texture and scale. Ossipoff’s design decisions didn’t necessarily cost more, and sometimes even gave a cost savings. It is a lesson that good design doesn’t have to be more expensive, and it can last a very long time. What amazes me are the number of buildings Ossipoff’s small firm were able to complete around a particular time frame with the amount of detail and client involvement they had.

AuthorChelsea Anderson

Award-winning architect Chelsea Anderson is the founder and lead architect of Habitable Form and lecturer for the Clemson University Graduate School of Architecture at the Clemson Design Center Charleston.

Call Us Email Us