Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Kahului, Maui
Info +

The Maui Arts & Cul­tur­al Cen­ter is an unprece­dent­ed project in the his­to­ry of Hawai‘i which brought togeth­er state, coun­ty, and pri­vate fund­ing resources and an unswerv­ing com­mit­ment by the peo­ple of Maui to the per­form­ing, visu­al, and lit­er­ary arts. Gen­er­al dis­cus­sions were first ini­ti­at­ed in 1966 to build a home for Maui’s art groups and were re-kin­dled in 1984 with exten­sive com­mu­ni­ty dia­logue which con­tin­ued through­out the ensu­ing decade of design, con­struc­tion, and facil­i­ty programming.

The project com­prised devel­op­ment of a 12-acre site above Kahu­lui Har­bor which is part of the Maui Cen­tral Park and adja­cent to Maui Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege. The Center’s facil­i­ties include a 1,200-seat mul­ti-use Main The­ater with orches­tra shell and prosce­ni­um; a 4,000 square foot art gallery, prepa­ra­tion rooms, and adja­cent visu­al arts class­room; an out­door amphithe­ater seat­ing up to 4,000 peo­ple with stage, sophis­ti­cat­ed light­ing and sound equip­ment for out­door con­certs and events; a 250-seat stu­dio the­ater for the Maui Acad­e­my of the Per­form­ing Arts with scene shop, cos­tume shop, and class­rooms for dance and the­ater; and the Center’s admin­is­tra­tive offices, patron’s lounge, and the pa hula, an out­door per­for­mance mound ded­i­cat­ed to indige­nous Hawai­ian cul­tur­al tradition.

The fun­da­men­tal roots of the Center’s design con­cept lie in the acknowl­edg­ment of the land, cli­mate, wind, and sun as the essen­tial deter­mi­nants of how build­ings are placed. Ori­en­ta­tion to the moun­tains and con­nec­tion to the sea are impor­tant anchors which con­nect the Center’s build­ings to the site. 

As an echo of cul­tur­al tra­di­tion and a sense of cel­e­bra­tion of place, the build­ings are ele­vat­ed above the adjoin­ing ter­rain on a plat­form par­tial­ly enclosed by a mas­sive hand-built dry-stone mason­ry wall by Thomas Kama­ka Emm­s­ley in the ancient Hawai­ian tra­di­tion. Unmis­tak­able qui­et ref­er­ences to the tra­di­tion of Hawai­ian archi­tec­ture occur in the use of the lanai as a uni­fy­ing shel­tered arcade which links and defines the Center’s form. The amphithe­ater is the focus of the arcade, embrac­ing the entire com­plex and the moun­tains of ‘Iao Val­ley beyond. The var­i­ous roof pitch­es of the sur­round­ing build­ings not only resolve the ques­tions of scale between large and small­er ele­ments com­pris­ing the diverse col­lec­tion of facil­i­ties, but also serve to sug­gest a vil­lage of forms, appear­ing in con­stant­ly dif­fer­ing per­spec­tives, some­times sil­hou­et­ted against the sea, at oth­er times against the val­ley and moun­tain chain.

A ful­ly inte­grat­ed art pro­gram was achieved as part of the Center’s design, with the archi­tect work­ing cohe­sive­ly over four years with a pub­lic art con­sul­tant and a diverse art advi­so­ry com­mit­tee com­prised of artists, crafts­peo­ple, arts pro­fes­sion­als and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers. Each of the site-spe­cif­ic com­mis­sions to an artist or craftsper­son of Hawai‘i, includ­ing the design and fab­ri­ca­tion of the sculp­tur­al main entry gates by artist Pat Hick­man and lead fab­ri­ca­tor David Hamil­ton, lanai grilles, hand-fab­ri­cat­ed stone walls, paint­ings, and sculp­tur­al wall relief ele­ments, was for­mu­lat­ed to incor­po­rate mul­ti­ple goals. The result was a lay­er­ing of oblique mean­ing and con­tent with­in the Center’s spaces which demon­strates the potent val­ue of art and archi­tec­ture being con­ceived and real­ized in an insep­a­ra­ble process.

Awards +
Award of Merit, 1994
The American Institute of Architects, Honolulu Chapter
Excellence in Architectural Design / Low-Rise Building Award, 1995
Hawaiian Cement Awards Program
Cultural Achievement Award, 1995
American Society of Interior Designers, Honolulu Chapter