Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Contemporary Hawaiian Architecture

Happy New Year!



More on the challenge of designing architecture in Hawaii that is a balance of old and new. Most examples here in Hawaii and especially on the Big Island appear to consider the aesthetic only as an afterthought to make it “fit in” and have a Hawaiian feel. Due to the lack of permanent architecture in the Hawaiian Islands prior to the arrival of Captain Cook, there are few reference point for designers to draw from. The amazing stone work of the numerous heiau’s has an irresistible attraction for architects in Hawaii.

More recent, the Dickey “double pitch” roof seems to be the most prevalent Hawaiian detail today. It is a bit ironic introduced in the 1920’s by an architect from Alameda, California. I am not trying to be overly critical of Dickey as he successfully modified Mediterranean buildings to work in the Hawaiian climate. Open plans, large overhangs and operable windows are necessary in this climate and function quite well. The point is that these elements lend themselves to making interesting contemporary architecture. Architect’s in similar climates, have successfully bridged the past and future while maintaining meaningful cultural identity. The Serai at Chadi Dasa in Bali is an example that draws from local materials and Balinese lifestyle. Traditional carvings, lotus ponds and coconut columns blend harmoniously in a minimalist architectural solution.


It takes courage as an architect to push developers and clients to risk building architecture that is out of the ordinary and not a pre-known commodity. It also takes an architect that is responsible and mindful of all the elements that are required to make a project work; budget, design review committees, neighborhood associations, construction methods, schedules, etc.. Modern architecture has freed architects from traditional decorated boxes, allowing massing to be expressed as function of the space. If an architect is conscious of the potentials of the local building materials, they can create extraordinary and unique designs with naturally embedded culture. These designs can incorporate all the elements and principles of the Hawaiian architecture of the past, yet bring it into the future.

It seems to me that, like most new endeavors, we must start out small and be persistent. It takes all members of the team from the developers, clients, architects, consultants to the contractor all understanding the clear vision of the project and each knowing their respective roles to realize the project successfully.

More to come…

1 comment:

  1. I love the look of Hawaiian homes. Everyone from the Roofing Companies in Hawaii to the siding just does an impeccable job in making the home seem tropical.

    ReplyDelete