Planning in Paradise: Urban Redevelopment Honolulu Hawai’i

Planning in Paradise

Author: Alex Krieger
Author: Janine Shinoki Clifford
Harvard, 2003

An important element of urban design and planning education at the Harvard Design School is the creation of academic studio problems within a real-world context. This allows students to have first-hand contact with public officials and other decision makers on a project of specific interest to all parties, and to gain a palpable understanding and knowledge of design, planning and developmental circumstances elsewhere in the United States and, indeed, in other parts of the world. For the sponsors of these academic exercises benefits clearly derive from having students study and re-imagine an area of their local interest, in an unfettered and often invigorating manner, as well as having access to a forum for discussion of pertinent issues that, again, is unencumbered by day-to-day constraints and the pragmatism that inevitably comes to bear on real projects. In short, when done well, it is a mutually beneficial experience that preserves the academic integrity of the exercise at hand, produces considerable insight beyond rank-and-file procedures, and fosters professional understanding and empathy in a direct and sympathetic manner.

Planning in Paradise, the subject of this studio, centered on the Kakaako postindustrial district of Honolulu, Hawaii, immediately presented what to many may have seemed like a paradox, i.e., how can one perfect something, the image of which already transcends normal expectations about the quality of life. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth and, indeed, even if this claim was true, then why not? Paradise, after all, is a thoroughly human construct, or many constructs, and therefore, susceptible to further improvement. In the case of Kakaako, through, a new kind of urbanism was called for and one that recognized both the incomparable setting and general disposition of the district and yet also recognized the need to present an alternative and even novel kind of urbanism that meets the needs of a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds in today’s relatively moribund site circumstances. What follows in this volume are attempts to come to grips with this dilemma, ably lead by Janine Clifford and Alex Krieger and under the just as able sponsorship of the Hawaii Community Development Corporation, City & County of Honolulu, Kamehameha Schools, Victoria Ward Limited, Schuler Homes, Outrigger Enterprises, Inc., Architect Hawaii Ltd., Englekirk Partners Consulting, Walker-Mood Construction Company Ltd., and Autodesk, Inc. To all the Design School new found friends and collaborators in Honolulu, we extend our heartfelt thanks for their time, patience and perseverance with us, as well as for so willingly helping us attempt the ridiculous—planning in paradise!!

— Peter G. Rowe
Dean, Faculty of Design
Harvard University