Architecture

Honolulu Museum of Art

New York architect Bertram Goodhue designed the plans for a series of galleries that surround courtyards, taking advantage of natural light and Hawai‘i’s climate. He used elements of Chinese and Mediterranean architecture, along with the pitched roof popular in Hawai‘i, to create a new Hawaiian architectural style. The Joanna Lau Sullivan Chinese Courtyard, surrounded by the Asian art galleries, is placed to the west of the Central Courtyard, while the Mediterranean Courtyard, the center of the collection of European and American art, is placed to the east, echoing Hawai‘i’s location in the middle of the Pacific. The architect used paving stones made from Chinese granite slabs (which in the early 1800s served as ballast in ships transporting Hawaiian sandalwood); Chinese green glazed tiles; Hawaiian lava rock from Kaimuki; and flagstones cut from aggregate stone from Molokai. After Goodhue’s death in 1924, the project was completed by Hardie Phillip. In 2001, the museum expanded with the opening of the Henry R. Luce Pavilion Complex, designed by John Hara.

Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House

Architect Hart Wood, who participated in the design of the Honolulu Museum of Art, designed Spalding House as a home for Anna Rice Cooke in 1925. He integrated Asian and western influences that later became a model for many homes in Hawai‘i. Known as Nu‘umealani (heavenly terrace), the home was featured in publications such as House and Garden, Pacific Coast Architecture, and Architect and Engineer. Hart Wood later participated in the design of many prominent buildings in Honolulu, including additions to the Hawai‘i State Library, Honolulu Hale (City Hall), Alexander & Baldwin Building, and the Board of Water Supply.

The gardens were landscaped between 1928 and 1941 by the Rev. K. H. Inagaki. Injured in a car accident, Inagaki orchestrated every facet of the landscaping from his wheelchair. He incorporated the Japanese doctrine of interpreting shizen (nature) in the garden, using rocks as pathways, edge stones and landscape boulders. Inagaki selected the rocks and their placement in subtle ways to emphasize the property's natural terrain, transforming a barren ravine into a classic Japanese stroll garden. 

From 1979 to 1980, the gardens were revived by landscape architect James Hubbard. In the late 1990s, landscape architect Leland Miyano added his touch. Miyano’s efforts brought world acclaim to the site—the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) designated the gardens as a national landmark for outstanding landscape architecture. The museum also received the the prestigious ASLA Millennium Medallion for its garden preservation efforts.