Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sight Lines

Living in Hawaii for 20 years, I've watched a lot of changes happen to the local landscape. When Hawaii became a territory the main source of revenue was the plantations for sugar and pineapple. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, tourism took over as the main economic engine that drives the state. Throughout the architecture has reflected these influences and now with the amount of people living here and changes in technology, the landscape changes are more pronounced.

Hawaii has always been known for its natural beauty. Tropical rain forests, white sand beaches, streams running from the mountains to the ocean, and rainbows are very symbolic of what people expect to find in the older islands. Images of spouting lava, red glowing rivers and steam plumes as these lava rivers hit the ocean creating new land describe the Big Island of Hawaii. Native Hawaiian built structures based on the environment on each island.

When statehood happened, Polynesian Pop was an architectural style that had wide influence. Lush outdoor setting with lots of vegetation, A-frame buildings, tikis, hanging colored lights, fish nets, wood carvings and tiki torches punctuated the style in Waikiki. Many of the residences both in and outside Waikiki were one story plantation style homes.

As more and more people flocked to Hawaii more and more buildings were constructed. More and more land converted from agriculture to some other use whether residential or commercial. In Waikiki, the hotels which were spread out started to go up. Where you used to be able to see multiple vistas, the views got limited. The buildings sprang up and the views went down.

On the Big Island large lava fields are receiving building and turfs. The sugar cane and pineapple fields on Oahu are making way for shopping malls and planned communities.

In my own neighborhood, construction has been happening again. This time it's been taking down some of the medium sized buildings and taller buildings are going to be built. In the mean time, as the structures are ripped down beautiful views are returned. While I know that I won't be able to enjoy these views forever, I've got to take advantage of them while they exist.

On the corner of Kapiolani and McCully there used to be a strip mall that contained the Supercuts that I patronized for many, many years. It was sold, and ripped down. For a time, travelling Diamond Head on Kapiolani, there was a view of the back end of Diamond Head that hadn't been seen in years.

Another location on Kapiolani that is just being torn down over the past two weeks has revealed a view to the back of the Manoa Valley. As the building was coming down in parts, I'd sit at the bus stop across the street and over the passing days have more of that beautiful vista revealed sort of like the curtain being pulled back to reveal what's on the stage.

In Waikiki at the International Market Place they have removed some of the buildings revealing other buildings that haven't been seen in decades. Some of the old Polynesian Pop design of old Waikiki gets to see the light of day again. I wonder how long I'll get to see them as I know that change is constantly happening. I feel confident that somewhere there are plans just waiting for the economy to turn around before they'll be executed and the sights I get to see now will be gone.

Change is going to happen, there is nothing we can do to stop it. With the beauty of Hawaii I just need to make sure that as these once hidden vistas are revealed, to take advantage of them and enjoy them before they once again disappear.