Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Kohala Coast, Hawai‘i
Info +

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.

Awards +
Private Design Award of Merit, 2009
Disability and Communication Access Board / State of Hawai‘i, Department of Health
Renovation Project Award, 2009 / Kukulu Hale Awards
National Association of Industrial and Office Properties
Grand Award, 2009
Building Industry Association of Hawaii
People’s Choice Award, 2009
The American Institute of Architects, Honolulu Chapter
Historic Preservation Honor Award, 2011
Historic Hawaii Foundation