Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff

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    Robert Wenkam Ossipoff House, exterior view of lanai, 1958 Courtesy of Tad Wenkam and Ossipoff, Snyder & Rowland Architects

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November 29, 2007 - January 27, 2008
Henry R. Luce Gallery (28)


Exhibition Overview

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Over his six-decade career, Vladimir Ossipoff (1907–1998), who was Russian-born and raised in Japan, designed numerous projects throughout Hawai‘i including houses, schools, churches, private clubs, and most notably, his role as the chief design architect of the 1970s modernization of the Honolulu International Airport. Ossipoff’s work reflected a deliberate attempt to enact a concern for both the cultural and climatic specificity of these unique islands relative to the technical and aesthetic progress of western modernism. Credited in particular for designing the iconic modern homes in Hawai‘i, Ossipoff often synthesized elements of domestic Japanese architecture with local materials combined with the functionality, economy, and open plan of European modern architecture. His work was featured in many design journals of the 1950s and ‘60s including Architectural Record, L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, Casabella, and House Beautiful as representative of a modern architecture expressive of the aesthetic and cultural values of the islands.

Hawaiian Modern: the Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff is guest-curated by Dean Sakamoto, principal of Dean Sakamoto Architects, LLC and Critic in Design and Director of Exhibitions at the Yale University School of Architecture. This original Honolulu Academy of Arts exhibition is based upon Sakamoto’s original research of Ossipoff’s personal and professional archives; local museum and newspaper archives; and interviews of his family, colleagues, former employees, and clients. Featured will be reprinted archival photographs, original drawings, historical publications, newly- commissioned architectural models, photographs by Victoria Sambunaris, and a documentary film on Ossipoff by KDN Films. Hawaiian Modern is the only in-depth study of this architect and the modern architecture in Hawai‘i that he helped to foster. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue, published by Yale University Press in association with the Academy and co-edited by Sakamoto with Karla Britton and Diana Murphy, explore how Ossipoff’s Pacific modernism evolved in dialogue with Lewis Mumford’s critique of the International Style, demonstrating how Ossipoff’s work is a self-conscious adaptation of European modern architecture to the regionalist concerns of the Hawaiian Islands. Ossipoff’s contributions are shared, in this regard, with a group of architects throughout the tropics in the 1950s and ‘60s who successfully adapted European modernism to their own climate and culture, from Sri Lanka’s Geoffrey Bawa and Carlos Raul Villanueva in Venezuela to Mario Romanach in pre-Castro Cuba, Paul Rudolph and the Sarasota School, and Pietro Belluschi in the Pacific Northwest. Exploring the reception of Ossipoff’s work in the American and European architectural press, Hawaiian Modern reveals Ossipoff as an architect intent on adapting a mid-century modern architecture to a burgeoning and geographically isolated region of the United States in the era of the pax Americana.

The exhibition will travel to the Yale School of Architecture Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut in the Fall 2008 and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany in Spring 2009.

This exhibition and publication are made possible with generous support from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Atherton Family Foundation, the Cooke Foundation, Ltd., Group 70 International, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, First Insurance Company of Hawaii, Mrs. Marshall Goodsill, Donald and Laura Goo, the McInerny Foundation, Jean Rolles and Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith.