Experience Mid-Century Architecture on This Walking Tour of Honolulu

Docomomo’s Hawai‘i chapter will lead architects and other modern architecture enthusiasts through a tour of what they call Honolulu’s Modern Miracle Mile on Feb. 10.
Modern architecture Hawaii
Blue Cross Animal Hospital


In a skyline full of shiny new towers, we tend to overlook the older low-rise buildings where we do much of our day-to-day business. Many of them were built during the modern movement, in the U.S. from the mid-1920s into the 1980s, although many associate it with 1940s and 1950s design here locally. Say “modern architecture” and we think Frank Lloyd Wright or Vladimir Ossipoff. However, commercial buildings were popping up during the same era, tending toward a lack of ornamentation and clean, simple lines, and heavy use of, well, heavy concrete and glass.


On Saturday, Feb. 10, Docomomo will lead architects and other modern architecture enthusiasts through a tour and documentation of some of the buildings on what they call our Modern Miracle Mile, a dozen modern buildings from the 1300 through 1600 blocks of Kapi‘olani Boulevard.


Modern architecture Hawaii
Hawai‘i National Bank


“Kapi‘olani Boulevard holds a rich post-war story of Honolulu as it provided a new, modern commercial corridor at the time, designed by several leading local architects/designers, integrating local building materials and the latest technology (i.e. air conditioning, fluorescent lighting and tinted plate glass windows), of which many were the first of their kind in the Islands,” says Alissa Carson, president of Docomomo U.S. Hawai‘i Chapter.


The stretch, which includes the Kenrock Building, Blue Cross Animal Hospital, Boysen Paint Co., C.S. Wo Building and Alexander Brothers Building, will no doubt change in the near future. The Kenrock Building sold recently to Avalon Group for eventual development as a mixed-use project. It’s said that only the Kenrock, Hawaiian Life and Boysen Paint Buildings are truly maintained in their original form. Want to learn more? Meet at 10 a.m. this Saturday at the Ala Moana Office Building outside Bank of Hawai‘i. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and your camera.


Modern architecture Hawaii
Kenrock Building


Docomomo U.S. Hawai‘i Chapter is a group that was formed to advance preservation and documentation of the modern movement locally. The organization focuses on increasing public awareness about urban planning, architecture (interior and exterior) and exterior spaces of the era, and advocates for preservation and reuse.