we were excited to see the work of i.m. pei, one of the greatest living architects of the world, in lush hawaii nonetheless. mr. pei designed five of the initial six buildings on the east-west center campus.
sitting commandingly on east-west road, the east-west center is an exemplary tropical mid-century modern work. it was completed and opened in 1962 to serve as the international conference hall, administrative offices and cafeteria for the east-west center. the impressive jefferson hall is set against the sharp angles of the verdant manoa mountains. we found the building closed on a sunday afternoon. like a pavilion in the hills, jefferson hall was providing respite from the scorching sun for a tai chi group and their children.
one can see the considerations and respect mr. pei paid to the tropical environment and institutional programming in the building’s design and siting. eastern and western motifs and gestures harmoniously complement the low slung building, highlighting the magnificence of the landscape. the expansive eaves provide shade, creating a functional and comfortable exterior space for activities and gatherings. this prominent element elegantly expresses jefferson hall’s role as the centerpiece of the east-west center campus. the building’s scale and design spotlight, as opposed to attempt to dominate, the real star of the show.
the dramatic siting and breadth of pei’s architecture has always captivated us. we look forward to seeing his other works in other magical places.