The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is the result of a remarkable process of investment and development by Laurance Rockefeller after a visit to remote Kauna‘oa Bay on the island of Hawai‘i in 1960. Passionate about conservation and recreation, Rockefeller originated the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as the fourth of his series of international resort hotels in pristinely beautiful sites. Describing the intent, he said:
“From the beginning, we planned and developed Mauna Kea Hotel as a resort affording the visitor an experience in beauty as well as recreation…To complement the spectacular natural beauty of … [the] site, we sought out simplicity, spare elegance of form in architectural design. We wanted the Hotel structure to enhance a flawless setting. We planned an open design to draw in and embrace the lush plantings, the soft air, the warm sunlight of Hawai‘i…”
The architectural firm engaged to achieve that “spare elegance of form” was the highly respected firm of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) in New York and San Francisco. The interior design of the Hotel was one of the most comprehensive projects completed by Davis Allen, known at that time as the dean of interior designers. Opened in 1965, in 1967 the Mauna Kea became the first hotel ever given an honor award by the American Institute of Architects. Two later additions to the Hotel were completed by Wimberly, Whisenand, Allison, Tong & Goo.
After closure of the Hotel in 2006 for renovations following earthquake damage, John Hara Associates Inc. was engaged to return the Hotel to the understated architectural elegance of the original SOM design.
The intent of Hara’s renovation design was not to create a new stylistic design environment for the Hotel. Rather, its purpose is to reveal the essential timeless principles and quality of the original design, among other elements reconfiguring most of the guest rooms to meet present expectations and to upgrade their technology to contemporary needs.
The international art collection originally assembled by Davis Allen for the Hotel’s public spaces and the commissioned prints for guest rooms were essential to the Hotel’s character and have been retained. This collection is being supplemented by new works by Hawai‘i artists, acquired by Hara on behalf of the Client in the spirit of the original.