A Rich and Powerful Place for Art

General / People / Places / October 28, 2010

On Oahu, Peter Bohlin of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has designed and built an award-winning gallery for a family’s collection of post-World War II paintings and sculptures.

It’s a small space designed to complement an existing residence by noted early 20th-century architect Charles Dickey, who practiced in the Arts & Crafts style, first in Hawaii and later in Oakland.

It’s actually two buildings linked by a glass extension at its second level.  With an elevation of eight feet, it’s sited for a southern vista extending over a pool looking directly at a line of breakers on a reef in the Pacific Ocean.  Its northern view looks upward to the volcano at Diamond Head.

“It’s in a magic, potent position,” Peter said.  “Late in the day, the volcano turns gold.”

His client chose not to replicate Dickey’s historic precedent, but to complement it with indigenous Hawaiian forms.  The architect stacked several layers of space, for office, gallery, guest room and storage, atop one another.  On its west face is a wall of cut lava, bronze cables attached for climbing vines.

It’s all sheathed in copper, which will eventually develop a graceful green patina. Shaping of the copper eaves minimizes light penetration while maximizing views.  A band of translucent glass provides filtered natural light between the copper and the lava wall.  Stair steps and plinth are of French limestone; railings are bronze.

An interior pivoting wall conceals art storage space for a collection that’s still growing, while allowing sculptures and paintings to be viewed simultaneously.

“The biggest challenge was to make this a great place – to be brilliant for the art for this client, in this place,” he said.  “I thrive on the challenge and the opportunity to make a great building and an extraordinary place.  One of the great pleasures in architecture is to be able to reflect on people and places and then on how to make things – how to shape them.”

The Waipolu Gallery and Studio has been honored as a recipient of the 2010 North American Copper in Architecture Award. 

It’s more than that, though, actually.   “It’s a rich and powerful place for art,” Peter said.

For more on Peter Bohlin, go to http://www.bcj.com

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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