Modernist Libraries

Mid-century modern buildings

Representing the only Statewide system of libraries in the United States, the Hawaii State Public Library System  has twenty-three branches on Oahu and fifty locations in total, with a handful of their modernist buildings still in use. We’ve listed a few of them and will continue to add more when we can …click on addresses below for Google map locations

Waikiki-Kapahulu Library (2680 Ala Wai Blvd.) – This nicely preserved tropical modernist library was designed in 1951 by Cyril Lemmon (Lemmon, Freeth, Haines & Jones) and features a natural sandstone facade, floor to ceiling windows and gently sloping, intersecting gable roofs. Located at the corner of Kapahulu Ave. and Ala Wai Blvd.

Liliha Public Library (1515 Liliha Street) – Built in the early 1960s and designed by Taliesin Fellow, Stephen Oyakawa, this concrete structure boasts a distinctive bubble lattice facade and a streamline moderne look. Located in the 1500 block of Liliha Street, an area known for its many modernist low-rise commercial buildings.

Kailua Public Library (239 Kuulei Rd., Kailua) – Slender columns, nice brickwork, clerestory windows and a gorgeous metal Brise soleil is what you see when approaching the main entrance to this fifty-plus year old low-slung little gem of a building. If you’re on Oahu’s Windward (eastern) side near Kailua  it’s worth the detour.

There’s also the centrally located Brutalist   McCully-Moiliili Public Library (2211 S. King Street); the low-lying rectilinear Pearl City Public Library (1138 Waimano Home Rd., Pearl City) which has nice clerestory windows; and in Wahiawa, off the H2  Highway, is the gorgeous Wahiawa Public Library (820 California Ave., Wahiawa), circa 1964 which reflects a New Formalist  aesthetic.

There are even more modernist libraries at the Manoa Valley campus of the University of Hawaii!

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