December 9, 2013 Mid-Century Modern

Modern Snapshot: Honolulu’s Tropical Modernism

Diamond Head

With the snow and ice that we had here the past couple of days, I thought some images from Honolulu would help take your mind off the dreary weather. Honolulu is one of the best cities in the United States to find such a concentration of mid-century modern architecture. “In the middle of the 20th century, Honolulu boomed,” architectural writer Scott Cheever wrote in Honolulu magazine piece in 2006. “New buildings sprang up like mad, and the architects of the mid-century designed them to excite people with endless possibilities. Definitely modern, these buildings seemed to float in the concrete dreams of a new era.”

Hawaii’s brand of modern architecture is exciting and exotic, taking the ideas of modernism and putting a tropical spin on the designs so they fit with the beautiful natural surroundings. Here are some of my favorite shots from my recent trip in August.

Here’s the portico of the 1964 Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall by Merrill, Simms, Roehrig. Man made and natural architecture (the palms) together.

Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall

 Love the appropriate design on these apartments near Diamond Head.

Diamond Head Apartments

The banks are beautiful in Honolulu. I like how the columns on the American Savings bank evoke the shape of palm trees.Hawaii Bank

Hawaii bank

The 1967 Atlas Insurance Building on King Street was designed by Ernest Hara. I love the concrete planters.

Atlas Building

Atlas Building

The 1960 King Center (1960) on South King Street was designed by Takashi Anbe. It features a  free standing expressionist portico and metal screened façade.

King Center

King Center

Below is the former Hawaii Life Insurance building (1951) by Vladamir Ossipoff. Unfortunately, the original rainbow paint scheme (sounds perfect for Hawaii) on the building’s aluminum fins were painted for the new tenant. See what it looked like here.Hawaii Life Building

I.M Pei’s East-West Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

East-West Center

East-West Center

The 1951 Occidental Life Insurance Building by Lemmon, Freeth & Haines. The airport control-like tower was added later as a boardroom. Wonder if you can see the beach from up there?

Occidental Life


Occidental Life

The 1969 Hawaii State Capitol by Belt, Lemon and Lo and John Carl Warnecke and Associates.

Hawaii State Capitol

Hawaii State Capitol

I love the use of volcanic rock on buildings throughout the city.  

Waikiki Baptist Church

Kon Tiki

Here are two iconic mid-century eateries to finish up the post. I could go for some Loco Moco at the Rainbow Drive-In and then a malasada at Leonard’s. As the locals say, the grindz broke da mouth, or the food is so good. Just like the city’s own style of mid-century modern architecture.


Rainbow Drive In