Honolulu, Modernist Paradise

Despite its immeasurable geographic and cultural distinctiveness, there is perhaps no American city that has embraced Modernist city planning as fully as Honolulu has.

2 minute read

May 15, 2018, 10:00 AM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310

Downtown Honolulu as seen from the top of Diamond Head

John Fowler / flickr

"The Corbusian connection struck me most acutely when I realized on my recent trip that many of Honolulu’s towers, both in Waikiki and throughout the rest of the city, sit atop open-air lobbies, of the very sort that Corbu said would bring healthy breezes to the masses. I suppose it makes sense in Hawaii, with the trade winds and all, but the effect is still deadening. Ground floors are given to parking areas. Towers are surrounded by pointless greenery and setbacks, making them mutually hostile towards each other. Curb cuts interrupt the sidewalk and, in many neighborhoods, there’s really nowhere to walk to." 

"Honolulu should be the most distinctive city in the country. It is literally an island unto itself. In fact, it’s the most isolated big city in the world. I would have thought that a city on an island would embrace efficiency and create dense, lively places in order to conserve scarce land, the way Hong Kong or San Francisco does. Instead, Honolulu looks like Houston with volcanoes."

"Of course, all of these places reflect their historical eras and the prevailing fashions when they were built. That’s another reason I’m sad about Honolulu. It was invaded too soon, before the native culture had a chance to make a lasting architectural impact. It was built too late, without much of an old compact downtown to provide refuge from the auto-oriented, suburban form that just happened to dominate at the very moment that Hawaii became a state and its (non-native) population boomed." 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 in Common Edge Collaborative

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