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The Iconic Building Concept No. 2 – The Hawaiian Performing Arts Center

June 2, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

My second blog post on extraordinary designs and buildings in Hawai'i (along with people) that defines a sense of place:

Imagine a place nestled in the cooler elevations of Maui, yet with a startling view of the blue ocean and simmering waves. It is a complex of low-rise buildings with red stucco roofs, evoking early C.W. Dickey’s hipped roofs of the 1930s and also Mediterranean seacoast towns in Italy, yet with a high tech air, as the building roofs are dotted with solar panels and wind turbines for electricity production. The buildings contain large cool halls for hula halau to practice with their gourds and mats, led by kumu hula with graceful arms and hands. In other halls are musicians who study alongside successful mentors, with instruments ranging from slack key guitar to ukulele to the revived steel guitar. Their voices and music and laughter resonate throughout the buildings and outside spaces.

On top of the practice halls are accommodations where students stay from throughout the Hawaiian archipelago and also from around the world, like Japan, Germany, Brazil, and throughout North America. Kitchens are well-maintained with stocks of produce from near-by farms and fresh fish from the ocean. Students also assist in cultivating groves of bananas, mangoes, herb gardens, and dry taro patches, and maintain sustainable agriculture, a model for the world – a “living laboratory”.

Outside under flowering trees teachers and students gather for the revival of the Hawaiian language, including oli or Hawaiian chants. The classes are rigorous, and in an ironic historical twist, students are penalized for speaking English while holding debates in ?Olelo Hawai?i comparing the political differences of King Kamehameha V vis-à-visKing David Kalakaua. As a visitor moves to more informal settings, the Hawaiian and English spoken throughout the center are carefully-enunciated and filled with rich vocabulary from Hawaiian oral traditions (Kumulipo) and English literature, such as Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot.

A low-rise amphitheater attracts visitors who listen to musical and dance performances throughout the day, (a la a micro-version of the Country & Western music hub of Branson, Missouri. The visitors also sign up for courses in the ukulele and canoe paddling and complex celestial navigation. Again, the standards are rigorous, focused, and involve much practice and creativity. The visitors write letters expressing their joy and appreciation, stating that their stay at the center was the highlight of trip to Maui, and they will bring back sustainable practices back to their hometowns and cities and invite the center’s teachers to establish programs for their children and youth throughout the world.

Perhaps it is time in the 2010s that the Hawaiian musical, linguistic and cultural renaissance since the early 1970s can finally result in such a center depicted above (perhaps a little too idealistically, but the over-arching themes are clear), intertwining language, music, tradition, culture, performing arts, and sustainability (plus paddling and navigation) – and a new type of sustainable tourism. It is not late. It would be a great draw for visitors and revenues can also fund many new cultural programs. As I discovered in a recent visit to a Hawaiian language class where only a few students had Hawaiian ethnicity, the Hawaiian language can find a new speaker population across ethnic groups and in this inclusive way, a wide spectrum of speakers can preserve and perpetuate the language in the islands that we call home – Hawai’i.

See See What is the Best Iconic Building for Maui – Concept No. 1


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