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What is the Best “Iconic” Building for Maui? Concept No. 1

January 22, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

Recently, during the opening of the 2012 Hawaii State legislature, Speaker Calvin K.Y. Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui both spoke about stimulating the Hawaii economy through construction projects, including highway repair, bridge maintenance, renovating State buildings. Through “trickle-down” construction paychecks, the objective is more spending throughout the Hawai’i economy, benefiting restaurants, car, and housing sales.

Using public works as economic stimulus is not a new idea. During the Great Depression of the 1930s President Franklin Roosevelt launched many “New Deal” construction projects. The Work Projects Administration (WPA) employed millions of workers to carry out public works projects. Over $4 billion (probably half a trillion 2012 dollars) was spent on highway, road, and street projects throughout the U.S. What is less known is that the WPA also funded projects in the arts, drama, education and literacy. More than $1 billion was spent by the WPA on a wide range of public buildings, including the Dock Street Theater in Charleston, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and the Timberline Lodge on Oregon's Mt. Hood – examples of dramatic arts, science/astronomy research and education, and recreation/nature/tourism, respectively.

Through millions of Americans who thronged these new buildings and learned about innovation, “new things” that never existed in pre-New Deal United States, American culture from the 1930s and 1940s was changed dramatically. Our American passion in 2012 for plays, science, the environment or just plain nature hiking could not have occurred without these “construction” projects that were disguised as investments in liberating the human soul.

Perhaps Maui leaders (government, utilities, hotels and hospitality, community groups, arts, education) in a private-public consortium should take a step back and ask “What is the best iconic building that can be built on Maui?”

An example of an “iconic building” is the Sydney Opera House (see photo on blog right side) that defines the city of Sydney: sail-like beautiful building design (doubling for better acoustics), harbor setting, celebration of music and arts (also combined with hotel/restaurant/shops for a revitalization of the harbor area). Or the flashy, ultra-contemporary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry: thrusting a previously unknown city in a Basque-speaking province in northern Spain, near the French border – into the global arts scene (and also attracting global tourists, stimulating the previously-moribund economy).

Concept No. 1 (more to follow in later blog posts): The Ocean

Ten years from now Maui shall have an “iconic building” hugging the shoreline or harbor. From the air the low-rise inter-connected buildings resemble turtle shells. Another design idea is a complex of flowing, suspended roofs, like a pod of dolphins, with glittering solar panels. Since Maui has become the global center of ocean science and engineering, the entire project is based on a community of global and local researchers, conducting experiments on whale migration, local fish conservation, coral reefs, and aqua-culture, plus sustainable energy. All power for the complex shall be generated from OTEC, wind, and solar, and global utilities send groups for study programs.

Visitors and Mauians wander around the research center, including a Hawaiian group working on traditional sustainable fish ponds. They also gain insights from interactive 3-D kiosks (designed by top electronics firms like Sony and Samsung). Also, visitors can stay in an underwater hotel, surrounded by fish and algae, and also participate in hydroponics agriculture, with fresh water provided by a desalination plant (there are also culinary hands-on teaching programs utilizing local fish and ocean products, and new innovation labs for entrepreneurial ventures that provides new jobs in manufacturing and sales). Visitors’ and local community children participate in wellness/health/athletics intertwined ocean-based programs.

The entire world shall look at Maui as a leader in ocean sciences, sustainable energy, and education and research, and hundreds of start-ups are launched at the Wailuku Industrial Park, Kihei R & T Park, and even Haiku bungalows, and Mauians return to Maui by the hundreds monthly from far-away Las Vegas or Seattle and join new jobs in engineering, R & D, and sales, and the diversified Maui economy booms into the 2020s.

As Americans now look at the great New Deal projects of the 1930s and 1940s with pride and accomplishment, Mauians of 2025 A.D. can look back to the early 2012 meetings on Maui to discuss a simple yet challenging question: “What is the best iconic building that can be built on Maui?”

See What is the Best Iconic Building for Maui – Concept No. 2 – The Hawaiian Performing Arts Center


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