Neal S. Blaisdell Center

Mid-century modern buildings

Part Theater, part Convention Center, part Arena; the Neal S. Blaisdell Center (named for the city’s former mayor, 1955-1969) spans an entire city block and was designed by the architectural firm of Merril, Simms & Roehrig, as well as Adrian Wilson & Associates who designed its Arena.

Upon opening in 1964, the Honolulu International Center – as it was known prior to its 1976 name change – was recognized as a vital achievement for the city and hosted major players such as the Honolulu Symphony, Broadway musicals and even Elvis Presley’s ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ concert which was the world’s first live television program to be broadcast globally by satellite, in 1973.

Its circular Arena (where Elvis performed), at Kapi’olani Blvd. & Ward Ave., has got an amazing “Spaceship Googie” sensibility and can hold around 8,000 seats for concerts and sporting events. The King Street side Concert Hall portion of the Center – which holds a couple of thousand seats for Symphony, Opera and Theater-goers – has a more refined rectilinear appearance that is softened by elongated arches which flank its main entrance. And regarding the Center’s central Exhibition Hall space? We’re not going to talk about that since it was renovated and remodeled in the mid 1990s… enough said. 😉

The Neal S. Blaisdell Center is a major modernist achievement in a city full of modernist achievements yet it’s currently under threat of a proposed redevelopment plan, so see it now… and stay tuned.

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