As a kid growing up on O'ahu, I took the lush flora, sandy beaches and city lights of Honolulu for granted. It wasn't until I moved away and would visit my family in Honolulu, that I realized how special the landscape of this city had been all along. Vladimir Ossipoff recognized the beauty of Hawai'i when he moved from California in the 1930s. A Russian born, Japan raised, and California educated architect, Vladimir remained in Honolulu where he mastered Tropical Modernism on the islands, designing a series of homes and structures that were environmentally sensitive to its surroundings. His signature touch managed to incorporate master craftsmanship and design elements deeply influenced by Japan and Hawai'i's cultures.
When we chose to feature the IBM building, a Vladimir Ossipoff design, for the cover of our Honolulu Travel Journal, I began to uncover more of his work across Honolulu and the influence he had in modernizing Hawai'i's architecture.
One of Ossipoff's most iconic designs, the IBM building, was built in 1962 in Kaka'ako off Ala Moana boulevard. Before the neighborhood began its recent gentrification phase, the area was dusty, full of warehouses and auto-body shops where the futuristic IBM building stood tall and to be honest, felt out of place at the time. Now I've learned to admire its unique brise-soleil concrete facade that was inspired by computer punched cards and used to minimize direct sun rays from entering the building. Today, Its iconic structure houses the Howard Hughes Hawai'i offices and is used as a location for many community events.
Vladimir's contribution to modernizing Hawai'i's architecture can also be seen at the University of Hawai'i Administration building. Built in 1951, the open lanai (hawaiian patio) and concrete masonry blocks were used as screens to filter tradewinds that naturally ventilated the building. This building serves as just one of his many examples on his advocacy towards designing environmentally sensitive designs.
One of Ossipoff's most notable works on private homes is tucked away off Tantalus Drive. Tantalus is a residential neighborhood, known for its steep and windy roads and optimal views of the city. We recently went on a private tour of the Liljestrand house (built in 1952), where Liljestrand's son told us stories on how the dedicated architect and visionary home owners worked closely together to create one of the most publicized homes in America. The Japanese craftsmanship that went into the details of their residence is inspiring while the Hawaiian treehouse vibes and captivating Diamond Head views from all angles is breathtaking.
We highly suggest taking a moment to view his work across Hawai'i but don't fret if you are too busy relaxing on the beach. If you've ever visited O'ahu or are planning to in the future, you are guaranteed to experience an Ossipoff design without even booking a tour. The Honolulu International Airport, or what is renamed as the late and great senator Daniel Inouye, was designed by Mr. Ossipoff himself and provides a great introduction to his style of work using post-and-beam concrete and seamlessly bridging the gap between the inside and outside spaces.
Vladimir Ossipoff worked throughout his life in Hawai'i as an influential modern day architect until the age of 90. Thankfully, his designs remain preserved across Hawai'i, representing the longevity and beauty of his contributions to Hawai'i's modernist movement.
Here are some of Vladimir Ossipoff's work that's accessible to the public.
BLUE CROSS ANIMAL HOSPITAL 1318 Kapi’olani Blvd, Honolulu
DAVIES MEMORIAL CHAPEL AT HAWAII PREPARATORY ACADEMY - 65-1692 Kohala Mountain Rd, Waimea
FIRST NATIONAL BANK, NOW KNOWN AS FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK - 2250 N King St, Honolulu
HAWAIIAN LIFE INSURANCE BUILDING 1311 Kapi’olani Blvd, Honolulu
IBM BUILDING - 1240 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu
LILJESTRAND HOUSE (reservations only) - 3300 Tantalus Dr, Honolulu
THURSTON MEMORIAL CHAPEL - 1601 Punahou Street Honolulu
U.H. ADMINISTRATION OFFICE - 2444 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822