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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

THE MUNDANITY OF ARCHITECTURE IN HAWAII

In my third year at Stanford I was taking more art than chemical engineering courses, and seriously thought about transferring into architecture.  However, that would have resulted in an extra year on campus, so that was my token venture into that field.

Here are 25 modern buildings CNN lists as the greatest.  Another grouping of 25 to inspire you, going way back in history.  The Haggia Sophia in Istanbul ranks at the top in most of these compilations.  No great surprise, but Hawaii completely missed the cut.  Thus, the purpose of my blog today.

Our 15 Craigside Photography Club has an August assignment focusing on architecture.  As others will probably feature beauty, shadows and perspective, I thought I'd try the other extreme.  Here is the result combining three of my recent The Bus trips in Honolulu covered in previous posts:  but with a focus on architecture.

I've long felt that the Pimple Building on Queen Emma Street, and officially called the Queen Emma Building, was the ugliest in Hawaii.  This ugly edifice appeared in my $1 JOYRIDE AROUND OAHU.

Designed in the 1960's by Jo Paul Rognstad to symbolize brute strength for the York Barbell Company and weight-lifting personality Dr. Richard You, the structure has led a checkered life.  

At one time it was scheduled to become housing for Hawaii Pacific University students.  More recent plans indicate 106 condos for seniors, with a rename to Queen Emma Regency.

Queen Emma was the wife of A. Liholiho, who in 1855 became Kamehameha IV.  She helped establish a public hospital to help Native Hawaiians, now called Queen's Medical Center.  With the King, she founded St. Andrew's Cathedral (located across the street from that Pimpled erection), starting Saint Andrew's Priory School for Girls and Saint Alban, which later became Iolani School.

The part that hurts is that I knew Jo Paul and his wife.  He is better known for Century Center (left), where he was headquartered.

We were interested in wind power using buildings to channel the trades into a giant vertical wind energy conversion system.  The power of the device increases with the cube of the velocity, so amplification made sense.  This was more than a quarter century before the Bahrain World Trade Center  (below) was built with three turbines.  Hawaii had the chance to be the first, but there is something about this state that fears doing anything extraordinary.

My primary reason for spending a night at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel earlier this month, reported on in REFLECTIONS FROM WAIKIKI, was to take a photo of what I considered to be the ultimate example of mediocre architecture in Hawaii:  the "new" Halekulani Hotel.  Unquestionably rated as the Best Hotel in Honolulu, in 1981 Mitsui Fudosan bought the property and hired Killingsworth and Associates, led by chief designer, Ronald Lindgren, to totally rebuild the rambling and decaying 190-room hotel into a 453-room jewel.  They instead created what appears to be a misplaced tribute in the classic style of a motel at a truck stop:


Here, the site of my favorite restaurant, La Mer, plus House Without a Key, made famous by Charlie Chan, where I took my photo at the masthead above with Diamond Head in the background, stands now an expensive monument to banality.

Flop #3 was partially covered last week in HOW TO BUY A $120 ALOHA SHIRT.  Here was an opportunity the School of Architecture at the University of Hawaii had two decades ago to design that quintessential blend of East, West and the Ocean for their new showcase building...and failed.  Again, Elmer Botsai, who was then their dean, was a good friend of mine, with a strong personality.  Why he acquiesced to settle for a typical block building baffles me.   They could have set the tone for our future with a spectacular masterpiece symbolizing Hawaii at the Hub of the Pacific.  They instead put up what looked similar to Hawaii Hall located across the outer mall of the Manoa Campus:


Okay, Architecture did not have any columns, but from a short distance they still look about the same, and Hawaii Hall was built in 1912.  I can almost empathize with what Elmer went through, for I retired from the University 17 years ago mostly because the system has historically been bogged down in futility.  Very simply, no one wants to get embarrassed, so no chances are taken.

Thirty-seven years ago I spent a short period as Academic Advisor to the Chancellor, and had an office in Hawaii Hall.  However, Holmes Hall and the Pacific Ocean Science and Technology Building (corner of Dole and East-West Road) have housed me for forty years, and I'm still in that blue building:


That is Holmes Hall for the College of Engineering to the left, and it looks like a parking structure, but it does have a kind of charm with its internal greenery:


At least my POST building is blue, an acknowledgement that it houses the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology.  I say "my" because I (actually, most of the effort was led by Pat McGarey, who then headed Congressman Dan Akaka's staff, and Michael Cruickshank, who ran  the Marine Minerals Technology Center under the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, which I directed)  helped secure the initial funding from the Department of Interior towards planning and construction.  There was an effort made to name this the Daniel Akaka Building.  That failed.

So, anyway, at the end of my bus ride after buying my aloha shirt in Waikiki, I  walked by the Royal Mausoleum, for I remembered mentioning in my WAIKIKI REFLECTIONS that Princess Kaiulani was interred close by where I lived:


Turns out that we are even closer neighbors than I thought, for that blue building in the background is 15 Craigside.  For 34 years I have lived on the same block, Craigside to the right for 32 and 15 Craigside to the left for two:


Just realized that my home and campus office have almost the same kind of bluish windows.  But to close, I am mostly disappointed at the mundanity of architecture in Hawaii, compared to where we could have been if opportunities and chances were taken.

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