Capital District

Mid-century modern buildings

Within a few blocks of the magnificent Hawaii State Capital building are a handful of other mid-century modern structures that are magnificent in their own right.

Listed in no particular order with corresponding photos above… click on addresses below for Google Map locations.

Hawaii State Capital Building (415 South Beretania St.) – Designed by Belt, Lemmon & Lo, with John Carl Warnecke & Associates in 1960, construction on the massive 5-story State Capital building began five years later and was completed in 1969. Utilizing mostly reinforced concrete, the architects goal was to reflect the Hawaiian islands’ historical, cultural and natural significance by incorporating them, metaphorically, into elements of the design such as column groupings of eight and an open central courtyard – representing palm trees, the 8 Hawaiian islands and the welcoming nature of Hawaiian society. Modernist, New Formalist, Brutalist; no matter what you call it, the Hawaii State Capital building is pretty amazing and a must-see for modernists of all stripes. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Queen Emma Building (1270 Queen Emma St. ) – Originally known as the York Building upon opening in 1963 (designed by Jo Paul Rognstad), locals call it “the pimple building” due to its unique staggered brick texture. Unfortunately this under-rated structure, as of this writing, sits vacant awaiting redevelopment. A beautiful organic looking metal brise soleil  trellis was stripped from the building years ago. Visit for some great pre-stripped photos.

Board of Water Supply Building (622 South Beretania St.) – Designed by Hart Wood in 1949 but not built until nearly 10 years later, the administration building for Hawaii’s Board of Water Supply boasts one of the city’s earliest and best examples of Tropical Modernism by effortlessly melding the International Style with Asian influences and adorning its facade with a grillework sun screen application and ocean-imbued color.

Ali’i’aimoku Hale (869 Punchbowl St.) – Designed by Law & Wilson and erected for the state’s Department of Transportation in 1959, this 5-story mid rise office building appears stoic and imposing from a distance, but as you approach its tall trellised brise soleil and vertical sun screen fins the structure reveals itself to be subtler and more delicate, not unlike a solidly rooted palm tree that sways with the islands trade winds. It’s a beautiful building and one of our favorites in this area.

Hawaiian Telephone Building (1177 Bishop St.) – The Hawaiian Telephone building (now, Hawaiian Telecom) went up in 1968 and was designed by Don Chapman. It’s a real Tropical Modernist beauty with soaring concrete pillars, cast stone vertical sun screens and oversized breeze blocks (as its roof!), just stunning.

Bonus Building: Just skirting the Capital District at 818 S. King Street is the King Manor residential tower, with a magnificent breeze block facade definitely worth checking out if you’re into breeze blocks.


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