To the untrained eye, Hawaii’s architecture can seem overwhelming, haphazard, almost organic in the way that buildings seem to grow out of the ground like weeds with no regard to their surroundings. But among the concrete monstrosities and the cookie-cutter structures designed for other places stand gorgeous, deliberate and still-prevailing examples of architectural regionalism across the Islands.
When Honolulu architects adopted the concept–to make the buildings feel like the place they are built in–a century ago, one of the movement’s leaders was Hart Wood, a Philadelphia-born architect who arrived in Honolulu in 1919, and whose contributions to the city surround us.
Wood is the subject of the photography-rich Hart Wood: Architectural Regionalism in Hawaii, to be released later this month by the University of Hawaii Press. The book, by Don Hibbard, Glenn Mason and Karen Weitze, traces Wood’s life and pinpoints moments of personal and professional inspiration, success and tumult along the way.
It’s filled with photos of his and others’ works, as well as architectural plans in varied forms. One sketch-by-sketch series depicting the design evolution of downtown Honolulu’s famous Alexander & Baldwin building, which Wood helped design.
Wood is also renowned for his long list of designs commissioned by the Board of Water Supply–including the main building on Beretania Street, a Honolulu Weekly favorite–and for delicately integrating Eastern and Western influences while emphasizing the importance of rooting architectural aesthetics in Hawaiian culture.
Not all of Wood’s work survived, and the book also includes photographs of some of his buildings that have since been torn down, as well as those that were never built. Take, for example, Wood’s 1921 blueprint for a sprawling 90-acre amusement park–including a carousel, a swimming pool, a polo field, a boat course, an outdoor theater, a dining area, a racetrack and more–to be built in Moiliili.