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Rare Editions

Who can name the most significant buildings in Hawaii? Architect Frank Haines, for one, editor of a book that does just that. This month, we interviewed Haines about the book, the direction architecture in Hawaii has taken lately and more.


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Frank Haines, seated at right, was one of the principals who worked on the Prince Kuhio Federal Buildings.

Photo: Courtesy of Architects Hawaii LTD.

The number of books devoted to architecture in Hawaii is so small, a nightstand might be enough to hold them. That nightstand would be poorly furnished, though, if it did not include a copy of Architecture in Hawaii, A Chronological Survey. First published in 1993, the book made itself essential as an overview of more than 150 major buildings from the time of the monarchy to the present day.

Architecture in Hawaii By Rob Sandler and Julie Mehta, edited by Frank S. Haines, FAIA. Mutual Publishing, Honolulu Hardcover $39.95.

The present day never stands still, however. In the final pages of the 1993 edition, authors Ron Sandler and Julie Mehta, and editor Frank S. Haines, FAIA, could only show a rendering of Harbor Court, then just a gleam in a developer’s eye, and a photograph of a model for the proposed Aloha Tower Marketplace. On the book’s last photo page? Chris Hemmeter’s Black Point estate, looking so very … 1980s.

Mutual Publishing has just released a new edition of the book, with photos and descriptions of 22 projects that have been built in the Islands since 1993. It’s a welcome and necessary update. The practice of architecture in Hawaii has gone through some soul searching over the past 15 years and the new pages extend the book’s story of how we build things in the Islands.

We sat down with architect Frank Haines over lunch at the Pacific Club, to talk about architecture in Hawaii—the book, the buildings and his own history with architecture here.

If Hawaii’s architecture has a kind of curator, it would have to be Haines. He was one of the earliest partners at what became one of Hawaii’s largest firms, Architects Hawaii, where he worked on such high-profile projects as the Prince Kuhio Federal Building, Kaiser Permanente’s Honolulu Clinic and Moanalua Medical Center and the 1978 restoration of Aliiolani Hale. At 87, he still chairs Architects Hawaii’s board of directors. He also co-founded the Downtown-Chinatown architecture walking tour 50 years ago, and still conducts the Saturday morning tour (see page 75 for more information on the tours). He’s been on the board of Historic Hawaii Foundation since it was founded in 1974, reviewing projects submitted for historic  preservation awards.

He is one of just a handful of architects in Hawaii who seem as devoted to architecture’s past as to its future, standing alongside such architects as Glenn Mason, AIA, and Spencer Leineweber, AIA, who both specialize in historic preservation.

So it’s no surprise that Mehta, who thought of writing a book on Hawaii architecture while serving here in the Coast Guard, approached Haines for help with the first edition. “I didn’t write any of the book, but I started out by making a list of the buildings that should be included and categorized them by period,” recalls Haines. When Mutual Publishing decided to update the book, it approached Haines again for the same advice.

Haines looks after architecture in Hawaii in many ways, including walking tours that include such major buildings as the State Capitol.

Photo: Mark Arbeit


How to choose which new buildings to include? Haines first turned to the list of winners from the AIA (American Institute of Architects) design awards since 1993. “From there, I selected a wide variety of business types—homes, public housing, offices, etc. Then I tried to find projects that represented the different islands more [than the first edition had done]. Finally, I wanted to parcel out the new additions among as many different architects as I could.”

Architecture in Hawaii is more descriptive than critical, heavy on photos. Captions, by Rob Sandler, give brief histories for each building, detailing its designers and builders and notable aspects of their construction, with little editorializing. It includes some private homes, but, like a lot of books on architecture, it concentrates on big, public projects—skyline stuff, and buildings with a more communal function, such as high rises and churches, government buildings, hotels, banks, schools.




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Honolulu Magazine July 2020
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