Modern Design in – Mid-Century Hawaii

Hawaii may not spring to mind when considering mid-century architecture, but the islands were part of the post WWII building boom and, Honolulu particularly, is a good place to explore tropical modernism. An excellent example is the Liljestrand House designed by Hawaii’s leading modernist Vladimir Ossipoff. Born in Vladivostok, Russia, in 1907, he was raised in Japan where his father was a Russian diplomat, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1931. He then moved to Hawaii, where by the early 1960s, he was determined to influence what he felt was poor architectural design and the unrestricted development of Honolulu. In his personal "war on ugliness," as he called it, Ossipoff brought together the elements of residential Japanese architecture with the economy, functionality, and open floor plans of European modern designs.

Howard and Betty Llijestrand spent many years looking for the perfect site for their house and found it high in the hills, offering dramatic views of Honolulu and Diamond Head. Completed in 1952, the house accentuates the indoor/outdoor living of mid-century design and made the 1958 House Beautiful magazine cover accompanied by an in-depth article. The house is now preserved as part of a family foundation and available for tours.

Over his six-decade career, Ossipoff designed numerous projects throughout Hawaii including houses, schools, churches, private clubs, and at left, the 1968 IBM building and 1968 Rainbow Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. He died in 1998 in Honolulu.

Images courtesy Modern Capital and The Llijestrand Foundation