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Realising paradise: Designing for Honolulu, Hawaii

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Victoria Yong-Hing
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Master of Architecture
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia
December 2009
© Copyright by Victoria Yong-Hing, 2009
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The undersigned hereby certify that they have read a thesis entitled "Realising Paradise:
Designing for Honolulu, Hawaii" by Victoria Yong-Hing, and recommend it for acceptance
to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree
of Master of Architecture.
Niall Savage, supervisor
Steven Mannell, advisor
Jacques Rousseau, external examiner
Victoria Yong-Hing
Realising Paradise: Designing for Honolulu, Hawaii
School of Architecture
Master of Architecture
May 2010
Permission is herewith granted to Dalhousie University to circulate and to have copied for
non-commercial purposes, at its discretion, the above title upon the request of individuals
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The author reserves other publication rights, and neither the thesis nor extensive extracts
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To my parents.
Thesis Question
Geography, Orientation and Climate
Hawaiian Vernacular
Hawaiian Architectural Periods
Waikiki, the Concrete Jungle
Hawaiian Housing Crisis
Design Strategy
Site Selection
Design Principles
Building Approach
Building Organisation
Unit Design
Appendix A: Key Building Analysis
Honolulu Academy of the Arts
University of Hawaii Administration Building
IBM Building
Beachside Apartments (Co-operative)
Walina Waikiki Apartments
Ohana Waikiki West Hotel
The Waikiki area of Honolulu, Hawaii is a prime example of how contemporary architecture
in Honolulu falls short of realising the city's potential. Development has typically either been
forged irrespective of the city's rich cultural and environmental context or has resorted to
pastiche in order to appear appropriate.
The goal of improving the experience of Waikiki is sought through the development of
an architectural language that relates to permanent and temporary residents, and to the
tropical urban environment. Drawing upon the philosophies of Tay Kheng Soon, the
principles of line, edge, mesh and shade, as well as the derived principles of inside/outside
and common, are used to design a mixed-use housing collective and hotel. The resulting
building has an aesthetic and social permeability generated by the simultaneous creation
of private and community spaces, by user configurability of screening devices, and by the
minimal use of absolute enclosure.
My supervisor, Niall Savage, my advisor, Steve Mannell, and Steve Parcell have each offered
valuable advice and time to the development of this project. The Dalhousie Faculty of
Graduate Studies awarded a grant that enabled my travel and research.
Marja Sarvimaki allowed me access to the University of Hawaii of School of Architecture
resources during my stay in Honolulu, and put me in touch with those who could help me.
Janine Shinoki Clifford of Clifford Projects Inc. discussed the project at length, shared
advice and offered advisorship from abroad. John Knox of John M. Knox & Associates
Inc., and Ken Stokes of the Kauaian Institute both offered insightful opinions regarding
the project in addition to permission for use of their research.
The USGS Geospatial Liaison for Hawaii and Pacific Basin Island, and the people from
the GIS Program of the Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development
and Tourism responded to my inquiries quickly and thoroughly.
From home far away, my family has supported me in more ways that I can list. Amber
McClure was my insight into a place even farther away, and was my eyes and Cannon
at the site before Google Streetview was available.
In short, Honolulu is a city that has only to learn how to
conserve and utilize its natural advantages to remain one
of the most attractive spots on Earth: it is a city where if
the social and esthetic vision needful for planning ever
took possession of its leaders, a transformation might be
wrought that would lift Honolulu beyond all rivalry. No
other city that I know would proportionately yield such
high returns to rational planning as Honolulu. (Mumford
With natural beauty that surpasses astonishing, Honolulu,
Hawaii has potential to be the most beautiful metropolitan
area in the world. Nestled between the leeward side of the
Koolau mountain range and the southern coast of the island
of Oahu, it is surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Hawaii is
host to unique biodiversity that was formed over hundreds
of years of isolation, and that thrives within a landscape of
tropical rainforests, volcanic craters and Pacific coastline.
The population, famous for its friendliness, tolerance and
"aloha spirit", results from the hybridisation of the cultures
that have chosen to live there. Contemporary Hawaiian foods
and customs are diverse and fascinating medleys evidencing
fusions of Hawaiian ancestry, tropical lifestyles, international
influence and globalisation.
Furthermore, while urban tropical centres are often cities of
developing nations, Honolulu has the social and economic
advantages of being the capital of an American state.
Optimally positioned for both trade and travel between the
American and Asian continents, the experience of Hawaii
is disseminated globally via the millions of people who visit
Honolulu each year. If paid heed to, Honolulu could be
poised to set the global precedent for an exemplary tropical
Unfortunately, Honolulu's cityscape incorporates little of
the beauty that surrounds it. A mushrooming of urban
development followed Western colonisation, and continuous
influxes of visitors and immigrants caused the city to expand
hastily and haphazardly. A lack of urban planning and
years of impetuous construction have resulted in the city
bearing countless contextually insensitive buildings, which
compromise the quality of the place.
Worst of all, Honolulu has now reached a point where
some of her natural advantages are not merely in danger
of being neglected: they have already been spoilt. More
disastrous results may follow unless steps are taken
at once to conserve Honolulu's peculiar advantages.
(Mumford 1945, 87)
Many have observed that Honolulu should boast a
cityscape worthy of its landscape. In 1938, Lewis Mumford
prepared a report for the City and Honolulu Park Board that
emphasized the need for a careful, comprehensive and
systematic approach to rectifying Honolulu's unnecessary
shortfalls (Mumford 1945, 84). In 1964, in an attempt to
counter the almost unbridled commercial expansion of the
Waikiki waterfront, the president of the Hawaiian chapter
of the American Institute of Architects, Vladimir Ossipoff,
declared a "war on ugliness", and sought to establish zoning
laws that would restrict development in Waikiki (Ossipoff
and Sakamoto 2008, 4). In 2004, conscious of the city's
deficiencies, former Mayor Jeremy Harris published the book
A Renaissance of Honolulu, a manifesto for reconciling the
city's struggles with urbanisation, suburbanisation, tourism,
housing and homelessness (Harris 2004). Still, in 2008,
Architect Dean Sakamoto admitted that Honolulu has thus
far been defeated in Ossipoff's war and that "the streets and
the spaces between our buildings aren't humane" (Gross
Nowhere is the lack of humanity in Honolulu's architecture
more evident than in its major resort and mixed-use
neighbourhood, Waikiki. There, developers repeatedly
engage in a capitalistic race to capture lucrative views,
increasing the challenge for future builders to do the same
and hindering views from within existing buildings or from the
street. In a sacrilegious assault on one of the most beautiful
corners of the Earth, the priority of immediate profit making
has prevailed over realising Waikiki's prospective tropical
Waikiki is home for some but also the image of Hawaii for
millions of visitors from around the globe. It is Hawaii's
interface with the world and its architecture ought to be
This thesis attempts to progress the architecture of Honolulu
through the design of a collective housing and hotel complex
in Waikiki. It is a response to the opportunities presented
by the overwhelming deficiencies in contemporary Hawaiian
architecture, and the resulting disconnects between the city,
its landscape and its culture. It is also a response to the
absurdity of Waikiki, the epitome of the socio-economic and
cultural disconnect between locals and visitors, and to the
needs of both these groups. It is the manifestation of the
belief that Waikiki is inadequate, and that a better Honolulu
must be pursued. It is a step towards the design of a tropical
city, which belongs within its contemporary landscape.
Thesis Question
What is an appropriate architectural language for the Waikiki
area of Honolulu, Hawaii?
Related questions are: How should a building in Waikiki
respond to its environment? How can architecture improve
the experience of Waikiki for both the resident and the visitor?
How might a sense of community be created in a place of
Geography, Orientation and Climate
Located in the Pacific Ocean and straddling the northern
latitude of the Tropic of Cancer, the Hawaiian Islands are the
most isolated set of islands in the world. They were formed
millions of years ago by volcanic activity resulting from the
Hawaiian archipelago traversing northwest over a hot spot.
The easternmost island, the Big Island of Hawaii, is currently
forming above the hot spot and frequently experiences
volcanic activity, but there are no longer active volcanoes
on Oahu.
The geography of Oahu creates a variety of microclimates
across the island. The larger of the two mountain ranges
on Oahu, the Koolau Mountain Range, shelters the leeward
southwest side of the island from the prevailing northeasterly
tradewinds blowing from the windward side. The windward
side of the island tends to be rainier and windier, while the
leeward side tends to be drier and hotter. Hawaii is outside
the typhoon area and there is no distinct rainy season.
The omnipresence of the mountains and the ocean are the
basis for the Hawaiian system of orientation. Rather than
relying on Cardinal directions, residents in Honolulu refer to
"mauka" and "makai" when indicating a direction "towards
the mountains" and "towards the ocean", respectively.
While this tension between the mountains and the ocean is
embedded in one's consciousness on Oahu, much of the
contemporary development in Honolulu obscures sightlines
to the ocean or mountains and jeopardises one's sense of
Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii and the only
major urban centre on the islands. It has the highest
population density, as well as the most infrastructure. Due
to the combination of its leeward geographic location on
the island and the heat island effect caused by its building
density, temperatures in Honolulu tend to be higher than on
other parts of the island. However, Honolulu experiences
little diurnal or seasonal change in temperature, and humidity
varies from comfortable levels to high. Overall, the warm
climate offers the ideal architectural opportunity to exploit
the outdoor conditions.
Relationship of Hawaii to North America.
Base map from Google Maps
The chain of Hawaiian Islands.
Base map from Google Maps
Hawaiian system of orientation.
Base maps from Google Maps and City and
County of Honolulu GIS Website
Environmental factors on Oahu.
Base map from Google Maps
Hawaiian Vernacular
Over centuries, the tropical regions have undergone a
process of racial and cultural hybridisation which has
evolved in the direction of ways of life which are unique.
The many racial and cultural blends that have resulted from
this hybridisation have finally created a new reality that
differs from its original components. This mestizo culture
is no longer native. It has transcended itself by the fresh
contributions made to it over time and has gone on to
become a genuine alternative to the previously existing
cultural strands. (Stagno 2001, 178)
Its geographical isolation, ecological fragility and cultural
distinctness establish Hawaii as a microcosm of the present
world; it is also a place where the consequences of change
are often heartbreakingly evident. Signs of globalisation and
the effects of an increasing population on energy generation,
garbage production and urbanisation are starkly contrasted
against what had been, until recent history, pristinely
maintained for centuries by a small number of Hawaiians.
These signs are echoed in Hawaii's built environment;
the architecture of Hawaii has followed a trajectory of
development similar to other tropical regions with colonial
histories (Stagno 2001,78). A survey of architecture in Hawaii
from its earliest documentation shows a diverse range of
forms and building types. However, the long-time practice of
importing materials and construction methods has resulted in
a routine application of foreign building styles. The designs
of many buildings in Hawaii are directly imported from places
with different climates. In recent years, most attempts to
create a regional architectural language for the tropics have
resorted to superficial cliches, which have questionable
relevance in contemporary times.
In the design of the house the tendency has been to borrow
the California tract house concept, to add one lanai, to
subtract one fireplace, and to erroneously claim that this
equation results in a Hawaiian house. (Fairfax and Regan
1971, 15)
To contrast Honolulu's architectural potential, author Karla
Britton states, "Of course, the actual outcome of Honolulu's
architectural evolution has produced mixed, if not generally
disappointing results" (Ossipoff and Sakamoto 2008,129).
Hawaiian Architectural Periods
Historians have identified six architectural periods by the
historical events influencing the islands during each time
span. These periods are: Antiquity, the Missionary Period,
the Monarchy Period, the Territorial Period, the Statehood
Period and the Contemporary Period (Sandler and Mehta
The Hawaiian Islands were populated as early as 1000 A.D.
by Tahitian discoverers travelling by canoe. Initially cave
dwellers, these Hawaiians developed building techniques
and customs similar to those in surrounding Polynesian
As described by author William Tufts Brigham in The Ancient
Hawaiian House, the Hawaiian house, or hale, was a wooden
frame structure thatched with pili grass. Variations in the
frame included a simple A-frame, a bowed frame for the
expansion of headroom, and a walled frame with pitched
roof. Before foreign influence, many hales were built upon
stone foundations to raise them from the floor. The interior
floor was either composed of pebbles or was covered in
The home was a reflection of stature, with the largest hales
belonging to chiefs and built by his subjects. Those of
Types of hale frames. ordinary status were helped by their friends and family to
Drawn from original image
build their own homes. After gathering trees from the north
in Brigham The Ancient
Hawaiian House side of the islands, the ancient Hawaiians carried them
over the mountain valleys to their villages in a process that
stripped the wood of its bark. The wood for the frame was
notched and bound together with fibrous plant material
before being thatched. Openings were kept small, and pukas,
Pou, or notched rafters.
or windows, were rarely used except sometimes specifically
Photo from Brigham The
Ancient Hawaiian House for nighttime ventilation.
In 1778, western discovery by English explorer Captain
James Cook caused a whirlwind of change to envelop
the Islands. No longer living in isolation. Hawaii became
subject to foreign visitors and influences. From the early to
mid 1800s, most travel to Hawaii was associated with the
fur, sandalwood or whaling businesses. Until the discovery
of fossil oil and the subsequent downturn in the whaling
industry, travellers to Hawaii were mostly American and their
stay was transient (Hibbard and Salbosa 2006, 6).
The connection and
latching of hale frame.
Photo from Brigham, The
Ancient Hawaiian House
Hawaiian hale.
Photo from Brigham, The
Ancient Hawaiian House
later addition to the hale
but was in use at time of
Capt Cook's arrival.
Details of hale construction
Upon the arrival of the missionaries in 1820, the first foreign
buildings were constructed in Honolulu. The Missionary
Period coincided with a recent revolution within the Hawaiian
culture and saw the construction of Christian churches,
schools and Western-style homes. For the first missionary
house, pre-cut timber was imported from Boston to construct
a balloon-frame home. The small openings and short
overhangs of this and the other early missionary homes
were suited to a New England climate and did not provide
enough ventilation for comfort, nor enough shade from the
Hawaiian sun. Additions to the house in later years included
a porch and covered balcony, and the veranda was adopted
as a common building element to provide shade for many
subsequently built mission buildings. Washington Place,
constructed in 1846 and currently the Hawaii Governor
mansion, belongs to the basic mission house typology with
a surrounding veranda. Other buildings during this time
employed such materials as coral block hewn from local reefs
and set with coral and lime mortar, and adobe clay.
Mission House: the first foreign architecture in Hawaii.
Base photo from Oahu Visitors Bureau, Honolulu Attractions
The influence of the missionary buildings on native Hawaiian
building methods is evidenced in the heightening of the hale
doorway, the increased number of windows, the inclusion
of glass in the window frames, the adoption of the hipped
roof for stability, and the addition of the lanai. Adapted from
the veranda, the lanai was adopted as a Hawaiian building
element because of its appropriateness in the sub-tropical
climate. Originally referring to a covered outdoors area
attached to the main body of the house, a lanai has come
to mean any type of constructed covered or semi-covered
outdoor space.
First influences on Hawaiian hale.
Base photo from Brigham, The Ancient Hawaiian House
Futher influence on Hawaiian hale.
Base photo from Brigham, The Ancient Hawaiian House
Hawaiian house no longer considered a hale.
Base photo from Brigham, The Ancient Hawaiian House
No longer in isolation, the reigning monarch and the last king
of Hawaii, King Kalakaua, looked towards European royalty
as a model for how to live, lolani Palace, constructed in
1882, is an example of the influence of European architecture
Washington Place, 1846.
Photo from The Celebration
of Women Writers, Hawaii's
Story by Hawaii's Queen
on buildings during the Monarchy Period. Given that most
Hawaiians resided in traditional grass hales, the palace was
an expression of the king's ambition for his country and for his
reign. Designed intentionally to mimic the neoclassical style
popular in Europe at the time, this and the other buildings
constructed during the Monarchy Period were a reflection
of the colonial philosophies of those in authority.
Beginning in the late 1870s, immigration due to the sugar
lolani Palace, 1882.
Photo from Pacific Worlds,
Nu'uanu Oahu
and pineapple plantations began to change the cultural
landscape of Hawaii
The booming Hawaiian plantation
industry attracted immigrants from several countries,
including distinct groups from China, Portugal, Japan, Puerto
Rico, Korea, Spain and the Philippines. The houses provided
for the labourers by the plantation companies were typically
economically constructed simple board and batten houses.
These plantation labourers learned to live together in an
isolated foreign place, and were integral to the evolution of
Moana Hotel, 1902.
the hybrid culture that exists in Hawaii today. Identifying
Photo from Hibbard
and Salbosa, Designing the influences of the historic immigration as "foreign" to
Paradise: the Allure of the
Hawaiian Resort. the culture of Hawaii is now virtually impossible; the foods
and customs imported by the plantation workers have been
inextricably woven into contemporary Hawaiian culture.
By 1898, the American businessmen who owned the
plantations succeeded in overthrowing the Hawaiian
Alexander Baldwin Building,
Photo from Fairax and
Regan, Architecture of
government and annexing Hawaii as a territory of the United
States. During the Territorial Period, steam cruise ships
began regular routes to and from San Francisco, enabling
Hawaii to become a popular vacation spot and fostering
the tourism industry. The Moana Hotel was the first largescale hotel in Waikiki and remains a benchmark design.
Characteristic to buildings from the Territorial Period, it was
built in a colonial style successfully adapted for the tropical
Thurston Memorial Chapel,
Following its role as a major U.S. military base during
World War II, in 1959, Hawaii became the 50th American
state. Hawaiian statehood coincided with the first regular
;**; " " ; ' " . ^ u K e !
Hawaii State Capitol, 1968
scheduled commercial jet flights to Honolulu, and together
the events spurred rapid urban expansion. While much of the
construction adopted air conditioning as a response to the
local climate, a few examples of truly Hawaiian architecture
emerged. During the Statehood Period, the modernist
movement saw a chapter of Hawaiian architecture in which
the contemporaneous Hawaiian way of life was interpreted
and designed for.
Unfortunately, profit-oriented rapid construction and reliance
on fossil energy sources for climatic comfort caused the
Waikiki Landmark
urban landscape to spread quickly and without consideration
Condominium, 1993.
Photo from Sandler, Mehta
to the environment. The recurrent imposition of buildings
and Haines, Architecture
in Hawaii: A Chronological standardised for more temperate climates make it painfully
evident that the standard methods for building in mainland
cities are unsuitable for tropical climates. Buildings often
inadvertently block views and prevailing winds, and omit
vegetation therefore contributing to the heat island effect.
Designing with intentional reliance on artificial microclimates
has prevailed over building with the environment, and as a
Hawaiian Convention
Center, 1997.
Photograph from WATG,
Hawaii Convention Center
result, Honolulu has allowed an inappropriate cityscape to
Historic wave of immigration
Distance to Honolulu
- 200 300 Visitors to Honolulu/year
Global immigration to and influences on Hawaii.
Base map from Sankakukei, InoueKeisuke a>
Waikiki, the Concrete Jungle
In 1924, the Ala Wai Canal was dredged and the Waikiki area
of Honolulu was transformed from a taro and rice farming
wetland into solid ground with 180° views of the ocean. The
official explanation for the draining of Waikiki was to control
a mosquito problem, but the underlying impetus is widely
believed to have been to accommodate growing demand for
visitor facilities (Hibbard and Salbosa 2006, 41).
Ala Wai Canal and Waikiki.
Base photo from llikai
Waikiki Vacation Rental
Waikiki is now the largest and most profitable resort
destination in the state of Hawaii; of the 36 901 visitor
units on the island of Oahu, 31 120 of them are located in
Waikiki (The Kauaian Institute 2005,22). On an average day
there are 19 000 residents, 37 500 employees and 70 000
visitors in the 1 square mile that constitutes Waikiki. The
area plays a major role in the State of Hawaii's economy,
employing 12% of all jobs in the state and supplying 13%
of its Gross State Product (Waikiki Business Improvement
District Association).
Typical view from a
Waikiki hotel
Waikiki constitutes the area bound by the Ala Wai Canal,
the Ala Moana Harbour, Diamond Head Crater and the
Pacific Ocean. Physically and symbolically separated from
Honolulu, Waikiki can be considered an island within an
island. Visitors might never leave the area during their stay,
and residents living outside Waikiki might seldom need to
visit. Yet beyond the narrow canal, the district is connected
to the core areas of Honolulu via an adjacent commercial
strip and waterfront area containing the event hall, the Hawaii
Convention Center, the major shopping mall, the Ala Moana
Waikiki highrises induce a
sense of claustrophobia
Center, and the Ala Moana Beach Park. Waikiki is also well
served by major city bus, tour bus and trolley routes.
Honolulu, 1887.
Base map from the Library of
Congress, American Memory
Honolulu, 1938.
Base map from the Library of
Congress, American Memory
Ala Wai Canal
dredged in 1928
Honolulu, 2009.
Base map from City and County of
Honolulu, GIS website
Waikiki, 2009.
Base map from City and County
of Honolulu, GIS website
Private Park
Public Park
WKM Resort Precinct
Resort/Commercial Precinct
Apartment/Mixed Use Precinct
Cultural District
Mixed Use
Civic District
--;•,"*: China Town
Central Business District
L //-&•
Core Honolulu areas, 1:75 000.
Base map from City and County of Honolulu GIS website CD
Waikiki is host to a mixture of residential, visitor and
commercial activity. It offers all amenities of a typical resort
destination including ample accommodation, proximity to
the public beach, a variety of restaurants, a plethora of gift
shops, and both budget and luxury shopping. Its major green
spaces include the military Fort DeRussy Beach Park in the
northwest end, the Ala Wai Golf course and Ala Wai Park
east of the Ala Wai Canal, and the Kapiolani Beach Park in
the south end. It is also home to newcomers to Honolulu,
part-time residents from abroad, and long-time residents of
Typical single family home.
Photo from Panaramio,
Photo of House in Waikiki
The rapidity of construction and the quality of design
are such that the involvement of human beings in the
planning process appears doubtful and one suspects that
these structures are produced by sinister and soulless
creatures working in the hours of darkness. (Fairfax and
Regan 1971, 15)
Unfortunately, while the mixed-use programme of Waikiki is
crucial to its unique social dynamic and charm, this aspect
is due in part to the remainder of single family homes that
exist simply because they have resisted being torn down,
rather than being the result of any effort to develop it.
Typical low-rise dwelling
Waikiki is a haphazard mixture of building types; new hotel
and condominium high rises overwhelm historic landmarks,
neglected walk-up apartments and old houses in disrepair.
These high rises do little to encourage interaction between
inhabitants and they compromise the experience of the
surroundings for their neighbours at street level. Despite
recent efforts by the City and County of Honolulu to create
a more enjoyable and pedestrian-friendly environment, many
streets in Waikiki remain a confusing and claustrophobic
experience; a long-time lack of effort to preserve views of
either the ocean or the mountains has resulted in one having
Typical condominium
little on which to base orientation.
The major criticism of Waikiki is that its built manifestation
impedes the inherent attractiveness of the place and
compromises the experience for residents, tourists and
employees alike. Waikiki is an anomaly of Hawaii that has
become inextricable from the character of Honolulu, but the
very qualities that make it appealing are threatened by its
own infrastructure.
Typical streetscape in
apartment precinct
Apartment precinct,
Base map from Google Maps
Typical streetscape in
resort/commercial precinct
Resort/commercial precinct,
Base map from Google Maps
While most visitors to Waikiki choose to stay in traditional
full service hotels, two types of temporary accommodation
that have recently gained popularity are notable for the
relationship they set up between residents and visitors.
Condominium-hotels, or condotels, are a way for multiple
Typical hotel
parties to share the risk and benefits of the visitor market.
Condotel units are typically purchased as second homes,
and provide a single owner a percentage of the revenue
generated by the short-term rental of the unit. The remaining
percentage is paid to a property management company for
the operation of the facility. Condotels are typically operated
as full service apartment-hotels offering little opportunity for
Typical hostel.
Photo from Seaside
Hawaiian Hostel, Facilities
owners and visitors to interact, and leaving the relationship
between the two groups purely economic.
An alternative to hostels and hotels, transient vacation rentals
(TVRs) have recently increased proliferation on the islands.
Many of these TVRs are located in residential suburbs outside
designated resort areas and are either privately owned homes
available for rent or bed and breakfasts within private homes
(The Kauaian Institute 2005,3). These TVRs are the subject
of contentious debate as they often violate zoning restrictions
and invite tourists into residential neighbourhoods (The
Kauaian Institute 2005, 18). While attitudes towards these
Typical gift shop
types of accommodations are split, many islanders feel that
visitor accommodation should remain outside residential
neighbourhoods (The Kauaian Institute 2005, 27-29). TVRs
require a more direct relationship between the local resident
and/or owner and the visitor than with either conventional
hotels or condotels, and profit the owner directly.
Typical luxury shop
Hawaiian Housing Crisis
The Hawaiian Islands are where visitors may spend the best
week of their lives, but where working residents may not be
able to afford to live; the State of Hawaii has one of the most
expensive housing markets in the country and one of the
lowest homeownership rates in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau
2000). In 2005, Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle declared a
housing crisis in Hawaii; both affordable homes and rentals
are required in Hawaii (Thompson 2005).
While the majority of Hawaiian residents believe that high
housing costs can be traced to the effects of tourism, many
also believe that tourism has benefited the islands more
than it has been the cause of problems (John M. Knox
& Associates Inc. 2003, 1-23, 111-61). Quality of life in
Honolulu is generally considered improved by tourism, and
it is foreign influence that has imbued Hawaii with the blend
of characteristics that foster its rich and unique culture.
Further exacerbating existing angst surrounding the housing
market is the impending expiration of approximately 1500
leasehold contracts during the next 10 years (Schaefers
2007). Much of the residential property in Hawaii is governed
under a leasehold system, which was established to address
the shortage of housing following WWII. This system of
independent land and building owners facilitated first time
homebuyers to penetrate the housing market more easily,
as leasehold properties are less expensive than fee-simple
properties. Land under leasehold agreements is rented, not
purchased, by the building owner from the landowner.
However, as the bulk of these leases begin to expire,
speculation grows about widespread displacement and
rental increases. The leasehold expiries provide a natural
opportunity for redevelopment and several fee owners have
expressed intent to end their current contracts once the
leases expire, suggesting future property redevelopment or
renegotiated contracts.
The proposed programme is a combined collective housing
and hotel complex, which incorporates commercial and
community spaces. As an approach to channelling the
profits of tourism directly into the local community, revenue
from the guest units and commercial space is to subsidise
costs of the housing collective. This integrated programme
appropriates the established visitor industry to address the
needs of locals, and offers a way for two inhabitant groups
to interact both economically and socially. The housing
collective is to be organised such that residents partake in
decisions pertaining to the group and have opportunity to
share knowledge and resources. External staff is to manage
the guest units.
The residential units are targeted towards first time
homebuyers interested in engaging with the community,
in maintaining liveability in Waikiki and in encouraging
sustainable tourism. The guest units are targeted towards
visitors interested in deeper social and cultural experiences
than those offered by conventional hotels. The commercial
and community spaces are open to residents and guests of
the complex as well as to the surrounding community.
In order for the different groups of inhabitants to coexist
and benefit from each other, a mindfulness of shared space
and privacy is a programmatic requirement. Opportunity
for chance interaction, as well as the option to seek out or
avoid interaction are important aspects to enabling these
groups to live together.
Complementary to linking the inhabitants with each other is
linking the inhabitant with the outdoors. Opportunity to enjoy
the climate in spaces that connect one to the surrounding
neighbourhood, as well as spaces that shield one from it
are required.
The building programme can be divided into the following
categories: circulation, common, private and services.
Common space consists of public and community spaces,
as well as some circulation spaces. It is integral to both
resident and visitor spaces, and frames encounters between
Details of the programme are as follows:
Commercial space
Classrooms - space for classes, lectures, events, etc.
Plaza - cafe, book exchange, internet bar, seating
Residential units
Common house - kitchen, mail, meeting space, offices
Workshop - personal and group project space, storage
Guest units
Guest kitchen and dining
Guest laundry facilities
Hotel management offices
Site Selection
The selected site is located four blocks from the ocean
in the dense heart of Waikiki. The site is owned by major
landowner, the Queen Emma Land Company, and is one
of several slated for redevelopment once its leasehold
agreement expires in 2010. The existing building on the site
is single story and houses a grocery store, a gift shop and a
restaurant. It is expected for the property to hold a mixed-use
resort destination upon redevelopment (Consillio 2008).
Site location, 1:30 000.
Base map from City and County of Honolulu GIS website
Site section, 1:200 000.
Base map from City and County of Honolulu GIS website,
base image from Google Maps
The site occupies the front half of a long block and faces
Kuhio Avenue, a major road that serves several bus routes.
Walina Avenue and Kanekapolei Avenue are the quieter
side roads on either side of the site. The end of the block
not occupied by the site faces the Ala Wai Canal and a golf
View northwest up
Kanekapolei Avenue
course beyond which, Honolulu creeps into the valleys of
the Koolau Mountain Range. The site is flat and there are
narrow view corridors down the side streets towards the
The site is currently zoned for apartment/mixed-use and is
located at the junctions of several different zoning precincts,
including the apartment and apartment/mixed use precincts,
the resort and the resort/commercial precincts, and the
commercial precincts. Although there are exceptions, longterm residents live in the area southeast of the site, short-term
View northeast up
Walina Avenue
residents live towards the northwest of the site, and visitors
stay in hotels towards the northwest and southwest.
I—£1 Site Elevation Photos
Building Footprint
Co-operative Housing
Apartment / Residential / Mixed
Resort / Commercial
Golf Course
Surrounding programme, 1:7 500.
Base map from City and County of Honolulu GIS website
The site faces two large hotels, which have commercial
programme at ground level. Adjacent to the site on the
northwest side is another large hotel with a restaurant
and coffee shop at ground level. This hotel is serviced by
delivery trucks on the side facing the site. Behind the hotel
is a mid-rise apartment building. On the southeast side, a
convenience/gift store occupies the corner beside a parking
lot. Behind it there is a low-rise apartment building and three
low-rise cooperative housing buildings. Behind the existing
View towards
Manoa Valley
building on the site, a large banyan tree currently stands
unceremoniously centred in a parking lot.
Due to the mixture of surrounding programme and assortment
of site constraints, this site offers a characteristic variety of
conditions in which to test design in WaikikL
Banyan tree behind site
Site Boundary
Building Roof Plan
Pedestrian Path
Major Roads and Bus Routes
Bus Stops
View Corridors
Prevailing Wind
Banyan Tree
Adjacent Garbage Disposal
Site conditions, 1:4 000.
Base map from City and County of Honolulu GIS website
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Design Principles
The six design principles derived as the architectural
grammar for the building are:
These principles evolved from an attempt to find common
criteria against which to analyse existing successful tropical
buildings, relevant neighbouring buildings and the design of
the thesis building. They are influenced by the study and
interpretations of philosophies surrounding contemporary
design in tropical places, in particular the philosophies of
Tay Kheng Soon and Bruno Stagno, the personal study of
Hawaiian buildings, and from the social and experientiality
driven premises of the thesis.
Bruno Stagno writes about "tropicality" as a term that refers
to what it means to live and work in the tropics. While every
tropical locale is unique, there are distinct similarities that link
the tropical belt. Many are or have been colonies, implying
relatively rapid urban development, a mixing of cultures,
customs, traditions and tastes, and a subsequent ongoing
search for identity. Furthermore, inherent in the the heat of
the tropics is a accompanying lifestyle; it is in the spaces of
shadow that life takes place (Stagno 2001,183). Accepting
that these similarities exist, it is valid to examine the
methodologies guiding successful architectural responses
in other tropical places for relevant examples.
Tropical latitude is something singular and constitutes a species
of global regionalism that embraces the entire tropical belt of the
planet. It is in this band that conditions prevail for a life, which,
ruled by the pattern of the tropicality, is not only characterized by
the portrayal and expression of its cultural identity but also by its
way of thinking. Diversity is evident within this region of the planet
but it exists in contradistinction to a sameness of responses. This
fact can be observed in the architecture because, when we look
east and west from our home viewpoint, across the tropical belt,
we discover surprising similarities in architectural solutions. This
belt, despite being multinational and multicultural, is consistently
characterized by the fact that concrete and imaginary realities
coexist there and share an alternating hegemony, by way of
a constant game of surprises and perplexities that provokes
unwonted results. (Stagno 2001, 78)
The work and writings of Tay Kheng Soon explore the design
of contemporary architecture in Singapore, a tropical country
that is striving to establish its architectural character following
political independence. Tay Kheng Soon states:
One of the principal issues of designing in the tropics is
the discovery of a design language of line, edge, mesh
and shade rather than an architecture of plane, volume,
solid and void. An unlearning process is involved, given
the dominance of European architecture which forms the
substance of the training of architects over the past 200
years. (Powell, Soon and Kim 1997, 4)
Bay Joo Hwa Philip refers to Soon's philosophy as the Line
Edge and Shade Paradigm (Philip 2001, 243). He deems
it a model for tropical architecture that is easily applied
to high density and large-scale building, and that lends
itself to the use of modern materials and the practice of
defamiliarisation (Philip 2001, 246). Soon explains that his
aesthetic is shaped by the requirement for buildings to be
designed with an emphasis on the creation of horizontal lines
and shadow in order for them to stand out in the combination
of tropical light and humidity. Minimal separation from
the outside is required; the roof is considered the primary
building element while the walls are reduced to light layers
suggesting transitions and spatial variability. This "fuzzy"
wall concept permits opportunities for unpredictability of
use and experience (Soon 2001, 295).
Because of equable climate, building enclosures in the
tropics need not be absolute limiting barriers. Thus, the
aesthetic character of the enclosure system must be
infinite variability. The wall and the volume are therefore not
the architectonic defining features of the design language.
The roof is. Implied here is that tropical aesthetics needs
to emphasize shade, shelter, shadow and profile. (Soon
2001, 295)
Tay Kheng Soon's principles for designing in a tropical
climate were interpreted and appropriated as a point of
departure for defining an appropriate architectural language
for Honolulu.
Bruno Stagno writes that the experiential qualities of living
in the tropics should be the basis for architectural design
that connects to the environment. He argues that wisdom
that arises from a tropical existence is borne because
the necessity to seek shade and to manipulate one's
surroundings to achieve comfort in a tropical climate results
in a close relationship between inhabitant and structure being
developed. He argues that living in urban developments,
which rely on the creation of artificial microclimates for
comfort, generates a culture lacking this wisdom, intolerant
of climatic variation, and that holds expectations of comfort
requiring great amounts of energy and resources to sustain.
This system of living perpetuates one's disconnection from
one's environment (Stagno 2001,184).
Af W
Soon's principles illustrated
in his Modern Tropical
House. Base photo from
Line Edge & Shade
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Section of Soon's Modern Tropical House.
Base image from Line Edge & Shade
Further expanding the principles to describe the effective
spaces in the Hawaiian buildings that were studied (see
Appendix A: Key Building Analysis), and to fulfil the goal of
connecting the inhabitant with the surroundings, the principle
of inside/outside was adopted. Inside/outside space is
The First Methodist Church
required to establish a connection with the environment and
is directly derived from a way of life and a way of experiencing
a building in a tropical climate.
To be truly tropical, architecture must offer spatial
interpenetration and interconnection between the interior
and the exterior environments through which the users
can either pass unhindered or dwell by choice. (Soon
The principle of common space addresses the social aspect
of the thesis and relates to the spaces of interaction between
public and private zones. It is essential to encouraging
a sense of collective ownership and creating a sense of
community amongst inhabitants, and to the integration of
the building into to the neighbourhood.
The State Capitol
The principles of line, edge, mesh and shade have aesthetic
implications that guide the tropical image of the building,
inside/outside enables one to live in and enjoy the local
climate, and common addresses the social and cultural
roles of the building. While there exist inherent relationships
between the principles, as well as overlap in the devices
by which each can be manifested, together they make up
a grammar that contributes to the experience of a tropical
building, as well as the readability of a building as tropical
The Hawaiian Studies
For the purposes of this thesis, the principles of design have
Examples of inside/
outside spaces in
Honolulu buildings
been defined as such:
Horizontality resulting from the prevalence of horizontal
shading elements and from their predominant importance
over the wall.
Example devices that might create line include roofs, eaves,
overhangs, louvers and canopies.
Distinctness of building profile against the sky.
Example devices that might create edge include overhangs,
eaves, louvers, canopies and corners.
The non-planar, permeable surface.
Example devices for creating mesh include screens, trellises,
punctured or permeable walls, colonnades and vegetation.
Asylum from the sun.
Example devices for the creation of shade include overhangs,
screens, trellises, louvers, canopies and vegetation.
Space that offers the experience of being simultaneously
inside and outside.
Example devices that might be used to create inside/outside
space include courtyards, vegetation, material overlap,
screens and colonnades
Space shared between people, objects, programmes or
other spaces.
Example devices that might create common space include
courtyards, plazas, circulation space, rest space, viewing
space and leisure space.
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The design principles illustrated in the
University of Hawaii Administration Building
Immediately when line and mesh replace solid and plane as
the ordering system of architectural form and expression,
the procedures in the design conceptualisation process
itself change. Forms are no longer extrusions from plan
or occlusions of Platonic volumes or juxtapositions of
planes. They are compositions of layers both vertically
and horizontally arrayed with elaboration and modulation
as intermediating spaces. A plastic flow of space both real
and implied becomes available in a new design language.
(Soon 2001,297)
Building Approach
The principles of line, edge, mesh and shade are evident
in the elevation, while there is suggestion that the building
offers experiences of inside/outside and common spaces.
Vegetation lining the overhangs and central ramp and an
overall openness of the building contrast the large and
massive surrounding buildings.
A grand staircase leading to the public plaza greets
passersby. Seating and vegetation is integrated into the
staircase, which provides a place to rest, meet friends or
wait for the bus. Sliding glass doors link the streetscape to
the lobby and commercial spaces at ground level.
Above, the staggered arrangement of the units, the open
plaza and the large roof create an impression of layered
porousness. The foldable screen lining the lanai of each unit
contributes to the permeability of the building fagade, and
enables the inhabitant to influence it. The lines and materiality
of the plinths and the roof juxtapose this permeability to
create a contrasting sense of airiness and permanence.
There is a perception of depth and a suggestion that there
is space between and beyond the visible layers.
Concept for elevation
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1:500 model showing elevation upon approach
The design principles
illustrated in building elevation
1:200 model showing the design principles evident in approach to building
Building Organisation
The building is conceived as a set of imbedded clusters of
community, with the largest cluster enveloping the whole
city and the smallest enveloping the individual units. At the
centre of each cluster is a common area, which results from
the grouping of the surrounding more private spaces, and
which serves to interconnect them. These common spaces
provide opportunity for interaction with the landscape, the
cityscape and with fellow inhabitants, and offer potential for
supplementary activities to develop within them. Grouped
together, smaller clusters create a larger cluster, with a
common space shared by each cluster.
<\ / \
Diagram of building organisation concept
The building does not have a dedicated circulation route, but
rather allows the inhabitant to flow through the clusters. Each
further imbedded set of spaces has an increased degree of
privacy serving to filter users and to frame differing types of
interaction. It is these clusters of spaces that create both
the social and physical porousness of the building.
This porousness and flow of spaces extends into the
surrounding neighbourhood via the staircases at the front
and back of the building and the visibility of the banyan tree
through the building from the street. The incorporation of the
space behind the building reappropriates it not only for the
building inhabitants, but also for the entire neighbourhood.
Diagram of organisation of building
The three main areas of the building are: the residential area
and the visitor area, which are elevated above ground level,
and the shared spaces created below.
The building faces Kuhio Avenue, the main street, with
commercial retail space and the lobby area on ground
level, and the grand staircase leading to the covered public
plaza above. Above the plaza are two stories of visitor
accommodations sheltered under a single roof extending
outwards. Vertical circulation through this front portion of
the building is via an elevator and a ramp that is flanked
with vegetation.
Relationship of building to banyan tree
community r<
lanyan tree
1:200 model showing ground floor
1:500 model on site oo
Dividing the ground level portions of the building into front
and back, or visitor and resident, is an open courtyard into
which the lobby area spills. Community rooms flank the
side of the courtyard opposite the lobby. These rooms are
flexible spaces with folding doors between them, sliding
glass doors that open them to the courtyard, and large folding
shutter doors to isolate them. Low stairs create a spatial
divide between the courtyard and the community rooms
when all doors are open. These rooms accommodate such
activities as craft lessons, hula lessons, meetings, parties
and weddings, and are where residents and visitors might
come together with mutual interests. Access to these spaces
is via the lobby area or from the entrance at the end of the
Towards the far end of the courtyard, behind the landscaped
walls, are the building management offices and service areas.
Delivery to the building as well as entrance to the parkade
is on the northwest side of the building, across from where
the adjacent hotel accepts its deliveries.
1:200 model showing courtyard space linking visitor
units on the right and residential units on the left
Bruno Stagno writes that in the tropics it is in the spaces
of shadows that life unfolds. Sun is evaded and shadow is
the delineator of inhabitable space (Stagno 2001,183). The
public plaza is open but shaded by the plinth above, and
holds four pavilions between large pilotes. One pavilion holds
an internet bar, another holds an informal book exchange, yet
another holds services and the last holds a cafe. The plaza
is an area for dining, talking, reading and working.
Unit Design
Above the plaza, the guest units are arranged such that they
create courtyards shared between the perimeter units and
the units one story above. These courtyards are open to
the sky and provide a shared space for sitting, dining and
talking. Entrances to the units are via the courtyard, thereby
increasing opportunity for visitors to interact with each other.
On one side of the entrance to the unit clusters is a shared
kitchen and dining area that can be screened in or can remain
open to spill into the courtyard. Across from the entrance,
the space flows into a shared lanai that overlooks the street.
A small staircase leads to the second story guest units.
The residential units can be accessed from the public plaza
via a bridge and from the parkade via a staircase or elevator.
A large staircase at the rear of the building leads down to
the banyan tree behind and can also be used to access the
residential units. The residential units are mirrored on either
side of the building, with the exception of the first level. On
one side of the first level is a workshop and storage area,
and on the other is the common house, which has a shared
kitchen, mailboxes, space for meetings or lounging, and
offices for management of the housing collective.
1:200 model showing the plaza and the experience generated by the creation of line, edge and shade
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In a similar arrangement to the guest units, the residential
units create a shared courtyard onto which the entrances
to the units open. Every unit has a raised forecourt, which
provides opportunity for social contact with neighbours
and physical contact with the outdoors. It is designed to
accommodate such activities as gardening, dining, children
playing, reading, and receiving and entertaining guests. As
a transitional zone between the main circulation path and
the front door, it offers a sense of security and distance from
Residential units on Level 4
the common space whilst connecting home activity with the
common space. In the kitchen, a high activity area, a window
looking onto the forecourt frames interaction from within the
units to the common area. A two stair level change separates
the kitchen and dining spaces from the living spaces.
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Residential units on Level 2
1:200 model showing residential
unit arrangement on Level 1
1:200 model showing arrangement
of guest units on one side of Level 2
1:200 model showing arrangement
of guest units on one side of Level 1
The living space of each unit extends into a lanai lined with
a configurable screen. Like in the guest units, the screen
grants each tenant privacy and spatial agency, and enables
one to experience the outdoors through a light layer of
protection. At the same time, through manipulation of the
screen, each tenant contributes to the configuration of the
building. While protecting the units against solar heat gain,
and providing filtered natural light, the screen also creates
patterns of shade that animate both the building and the
building inhabitants.
There are several types of residential units, including two
types of 1 -bedroom units, one type of 2-bedroom units and
one type of 3-bedroom units. The 1 -bedroom units are one
story while the 2 and 3-bedroom units are two story.
In the same manner as the overall building, the two story
residential units are designed with the sleeping, or more
private areas, above the shared space below. There is a
common space at the top of the stairs, which links the private
bedrooms and provides the opportunity to enjoy the view
outwards, to rest and to interact. The screen enveloping the
lanai on the first level of the uit also envelops and links the
space on the level above. In the single-story units, this linking
occurs between the lanai of one unit and the bedroom of
another. Both the privacy and the intimacy with the outdoors
imparted by the screen are thus experiences that are shared
by the tenants.
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Multiconfigurable base design of residential units
Perspective of residential unit living space showing
experience of light and shadow through the screen oi
Building section showing relationship to surrounding buildings
Ground level plan
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Level 1 plan
Level 2 plan
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Level 3 plan
Level 4 plan
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§ 5
First off, this new architecture will treat the good buildings
of the past with respect and compassion. It will be an
architecture that has generous concern for the city as a
whole. It will not be dictated to by the expeditious attitude
of by the short-ranged cost projectionists. It will not be
an architecture that borrows recklessly from other times
of other places and it will not be an architecture cocooned
in yesterday's mistakes. It will be sympathetic to nature
and nature will dominate, and the design will be influenced
strongly by the unusually good climate. [...] It will be an
architecture that encourages evolution and never remains
static. Above all else, it will be an architecture that dignifies
the human being and respects the best inherent qualities
of the environment. (Fairfax and Regan 1971,12)
In a context of exquisite natural beauty and cultural richness,
the buildings in Waikiki fall far short of realising the potential
of Hawaiian architecture. The massiveness and climatic
insensitivity of buildings typically constructed in Waikiki
are obviously inappropriate characteristics for architecture
in a tropical city. Yet attempts to deliver a contemporary
architectural style for Hawaii have failed due to the common
retrospective application of familiar building elements and
themes, regardless of their true relevance.
This thesis asks: What is an appropriate architectural
language for the Waikiki area of Honolulu, Hawaii?
To answer this question, the philosophies of architects
striving to define the identities of other tropical cities were
contemplated. Influenced most by the writings of Bruno
Stagno and Tay Kheng Soon, line, edge, mesh, shade, inside/
outside and common were derived as the key principles
by which a mixed-use housing and hotel complex was
Addressing the social context of the site, the building
design considers the role of tourism in the development
of both Hawaiian identity and the cityscape, and explores
the needs of differing inhabitant groups and the creation
of community between them. In accordance with the
principles, the building uses the organization of spaces to
create an aesthetic and social porousness, which enables
an alternative experience of Waikiki. The resulting building
contrasts its built surroundings, yet integrates into the
This thesis is inspired by the belief that a place as virtuous
as Hawaii ought to be served by it architecture. While
expression of this project is in Waikiki, at its core is a
movement towards promoting conscientious and appropriate
design as a standard approach for development across all
of Hawaii and on tropical islands beyond.
Six buildings in Honolulu were studied to illustrate examples
of the thesis design principles and to study how various
relationships between the principles and different ways of
addressing the principles can be effective.
Three buildings are a variation of a courtyard building and
three are neighbouring buildings to the site with relevant
In each building analysis, the photographs show where the
principles are most evident in the building, while the diagrams
illustrate how the principles relate to each other.
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Location: Honolulu, HI
Year: 1927
Architect: Bertram Goodhue
Major aesthetic element: roof
Primary organisation principle: series of courtyards
Relationship of design principles in
the Honolulu Academy of Arts
University of Hawaii Administration Building
Location: Honolulu, HI
Year: 1949
Architect: Vladimir Ossipoff
Major aesthetic element: layers
Primary organisation principle: central courtyard
Relationship of design principles in the
University of Hawaii Administration Building
IBM Building
Location: Honolulu, HI
Year: 1962
Architect: Vladimir Ossipoff
Major aesthetic element: screen
Primary organisation principle: stacked rooms
«lHII»i» t t,»^»^lHJljl
Relationship of design principles in the IBM Building
Beachside Apartments (Co-operative)
Location: Honolulu, HI, adjacent to site
Year: 1959
Room types: studio, 1 and 2-bedroom units
Major aesthetic element: external circulation
Primary organisation principle: L-buildings, stacked units
Relationship of design principles
in the Beachside Apartments
Walina Waikiki Apartments
Location: Honolulu, HI, near site
Year: 1971
Room types: 1 and 2-bedroom units
Major aesthetic element: lanais
Primary organisation principle: stacked units
w^ p^r
Relationship of design principles
in the Walina Waikiki Apartments
Ohana Waikiki West Hotel
Location: Honolulu, HI, adjacent to site
Accomodation type: full-service hotel
Major aesthetic element: massiveness
Primary organisation principle: stacked units
Relationship of design principles in the Ohana Waikiki West Hotel.
Base image from Ohana Waikiki West Hotel, Virtual Tour
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