University of Hawaii

Mid-century modern buildings

Founded in 1907 and relocated from Thomas Square to its current Manoa Valley location in 1912, The University of Hawaii campus at Manoa expanded dramatically during the post war boom years leaving behind a legacy of mid-century modern construction by noted architects like Vladimir Ossipoff, I.M. Pei and Alfred Preis, among others.

To put it mildly, this campus is a spectacular tropical oasis of modernist treasures where one could spend hours wandering the grounds and still not see everything.

To get you started we’ve listed a few of our favorite buildings with corresponding photos above… click on addresses below for Google map locations.

Bachman Hall (2444 Dole Street) – Simply called the “Administration Building” upon completion in 1949, this stunner was later named for the University’s fifth president, Paul S. Bachman, and designed by Hawaii’s most prolific modernist architect, Vladimir Ossipoff.  Be sure to check out its mid-century lobby interior which also features the 1953 mural “Commencement”  by artist Jean Charlot.

Jefferson Hall (1777 East-West Road) – Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to educate and strengthen relations between Asia, the Pacific, and the United States, the East-West Center  at the Manoa campus boasts a handful of beautiful 1960s modernist buildings including its conference center at Jefferson Hall; a refined yet bold 4-story brutalist statement which was designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei  and completed in 1963. To the rear of the property is landscape architect Kenzo Ogata’s tranquil Japanese Garden.

Kennedy Theater (1770 East-West Road) – The first public building to be named after President John F. Kennedy, on November 27, 1963, the Kennedy Theater is another brutalist design by internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei and located directly across from Jefferson Hall at the East-West Center. It’s home to the University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Health Services Building (1710 East-West Road) – Designed in the Hawaiin modernist style by Herbert Matsumura in 1963, this low lying rectilinear concrete building features a nice breeze block facade, a post & beam entry and floor to ceiling glass.

Keller Hall (2565 McCarthy Mall) – Designed by Clifford F. Young  in 1959 using the International Style, the 4-story Keller Hall is currently home to the Department of Mathematics and boasts some very unique stained glass windows throughout by artist and one time University of Hawaii art professor Murray Turnbull.

Hamilton Library (2550 McCarthy Mall) – Designed by George Hogan  and known to students as “the igloo” for its less than temperate air conditioning, the Hamilton Library blends International Style with beautiful Brutalism to create a uniquely Hawaiian modernist structure which also happens to be the state’s largest research library. Be sure to also check out the Sinclair Library designed by Lemmon, Freeth & Haines in 1951.

Bilger Hall (2545 McCarthy Mall) – Notable for its adaptive use of the International Style, this 1951 3-story Chemistry building by architect Mark Potter uses window overhangs, lanais and courtyards to create a tropical-modernist feel.

Kamakakuokalani Building (2645 Dole Street) – The Center for Hawaiian Studies complex was designed by architects Kauahikaua & Chun in 1996 (nope, not mid-century!) and draws from Hawaiian tradition to create something wholly unique; a simultaneous architectural and spiritual convergence. A must see!

Hale Oloha Towers (2571-2583 Dole Street) – From the Kamakakuokalani Building you can see the four Hale Aloha 13-story circular towers rising from the landscape, it’s quite a sight. They were designed as student housing in the late 1960s by Stephen Oyakawa (who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright) and built between 1970-71. Each tower is named for a flower of Hawaii’s largest islands; I’lima (O’ahu), Lokelani (Maui), Mokihana (Kauai) and Lehua (The Big Island).

To find more modernist buildings in this architectural paradise check out the University’s interactive map, or better yet, pack a plate lunch  and spend the day!

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