From Our Files: Architecture
In 1888, King Kalakaua issued a royal charter, commissioning a magazine. Then titled Paradise of the Pacific, this publication became HONOLULU Magazine, making it the oldest magazine west of the Mississippi.
We now know the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium as a sadly neglected monument to Hawaii’s losses in World War I, but, in 1920, it hadn’t even been built yet and wasn’t the only proposal for the site. Our predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific, argued against the natatorium, declaring its swimming pool to be undignified and unserious, inevitably to be used by a “yelling mob.” It preferred this more static, unofficial alternative put forward independently by sculptor Avaro Fairbanks. Argued Paradise, “It would surely be more fitting that the memories of our sacred dead should be commemorated in a manner that shall, for all time, show forth to the world the deep reverence and love in which we hold them.”
The building boom of the late 1920s brought signature new buildings to downtown Honolulu and Paradise greeted many of them with coverage. Here it presents the Dillingham Transportation Building, noting, “Lincoln Rogers, architect of the building, in choosing a style of architecture generally called ‘Mediterranean’ with Italian Renaissance as the guiding principle, found a motif ideally suited to a semi-tropic city surrounded by sparkling seas and green-clad mountains.” Of its urban landscaping, Paradise adds, “The transplanting of full-grown palms to the ‘setback strips’ of Honolulu’s new buildings is a happy custom.”
The Great Depression and World War II had stifled development in Hawaii, but the postwar era was marked by an optimistic futurism and Paradise was caught up in the excitement, too—at last, things could be built! Here it presented some wild renderings commissioned by Hawaiian Electric Co., seeking a new architecture for a modern Hawaii. “For traffic of street and sky, the ‘parkatorium’ is suggested,” writes Paradise. “It solves the problem of parking space for motor cars and gyro planes.”
Did you know? Other futuristic proposals for Honolulu in 1946 include a French-Riviera-inspired plan for a Waikiki fronted by a boardwalk, not hotels.
The statehood era coincided with a construction boom and Paradise frequently profiled signature buildings, including a lengthy article on the completion of Ala Moana Shopping Center. Of some of the architecture, Paradise wrote, “I noticed Sears Roebuck and Company … with its stunning entrance designed by architect John Graham. To me, it was like a geometric masterpiece of lovely carved ivory. Part of the exterior and pillars are finished in rare pink coral. The effect is most distinctive and unusual. The coral, incidentally, came from Barbers Point here on O‘ahu.” The center still thrives, of course, though Sears is scheduled to close in 2014.
HONOLULU Magazine welcomed the new state Capitol Building with a photo essay of the new structure. It included these early concept sketches by architects Belt, Lemmon & Lo and Carl Warnecke & Associates. Says HONOLULU of the finished building, “The feeling of space is indeed impressive, and one cannot tour the building without expressing a word of awe … although there have been a few voices protesting that the building is contrived. Loudest complaint has been that the Capitol is far too big for the site it occupies. It crowds next to ‘Iolani Palace, its predecessor, and is surrounded by ugliness on three sides.”
In an article titled “Not Another Dickey Roof,” HONOLULU interviews architects about the growing public frustration with the seemingly endless wave of new buildings done up in beige stucco, with green, double-pitched hipped roofs. The architects were frustrated, too, with these knock-offs of the C.W. Dickey-designed Alexander & Baldwin Building. Said W.H. Raymond Yeh, dean of the UH School of Architecture, “It’s too bad, because that’s a very superficial way to address a Hawaiian sense of place.”
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