Economies of the City: Honolulu’s Financial Plaza of the Pacific




architecture, public art, commerce, Hawai'i, Brutalism


This paper concerns one monumental architectural structure that defined Honolulu’s business economy and approaches to urban planning in the Central Business District (CBD) during the 1960s – the Financial Plaza of the Pacific. As indicated from its moniker, the design and construction of the edifice highlighted Hawai‘i’s physical location as a global crossroads. The international vision of this “commercial condominium”, and by extension Honolulu, addressed the effects of urban blight and suburban flight that plagued the CBD in the years leading up to, and following, U.S. statehood. The merger of three corporate enterprises (Castle & Cooke, Bank of Hawaii, and American Savings and Loan) at the Financial Plaza of the Pacific functioned as means to display corporate reinvestment in the district. The architects of the project, Leo S. Wou & Associates and Victor Gruen Associates, desired to create a spatially unified environment with outdoor public space and art projects as loci for human interaction. Ultimately, the Financial Plaza of the Pacific reveals the ways in which Honolulu operated – and continues to operate – as a living city spurred by enterprise and revitalization.

Author Biography

Kelema Lee Moses, Occidental College, California

Kelema Lee Moses is an Assistant Professor of art history at Occidental College. Her teaching and research combines historical perspectives with discussions about critical contemporary issues related to the built environment of the United States and Asia-Pacific region. Her work has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the East-West Center at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She has published in the edited volume, Colonial Frames/Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture and Modernity, The Chicago Art Journal, and The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History.


Adamson, M. (2013). A Better Way to Build: A History of the Pankow Companies. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.

American Saving & Loan Expands Offices. 1956, 22 January. Honolulu Advertiser, p. B3:3.

Banham, R. (2011, reprint). The New Brutalism. October, 136, 19-28.

Bell, J. A. (1998). Negotiating Space and Place: An Ethnography of the Cultural Politics of Architecture in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. M.A. thesis: University of Oxford, Hertford College.

Castle & Cooke. (1951). The First 100 Years: A Report on the Operations of Castle & Cooke for the years 1851-1951. Honolulu.

Central Business District Consultants. (1960). The Central Business District of Hawaii. Honolulu.

City Planning Commission. (1959). Central Business District of the City and County of Honolulu: An Inventory and Analysis of its Problems. Honolulu.

Clancy, E. (2016). Past, Present and Future in the Art of Arnaldo Pomodoro. Retrieved from arnaldo-pomodoro/

Construction Starts on AS&L Building. 1967, 20 March. Honolulu Advertiser, A12:3.

Deamer, P. (Ed.) (2013). Architecture and Capitalism: 1845 to the Present. New York, New York: Routledge.

Downtown Improvement Association (1962). A Master Plan for The Central Business District. Honolulu.

Fleischmann, A., & Styvendale, N. (Eds.) (2011). Narratives of Citizenship: Indigenous and Diasporic Peoples Unsettle the Nation-State. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press.

Forstall, R. (2002). Hawaii: Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990. US Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

Garipour, M., & Ozlu, N. (Eds.) (2015). The City in the Muslim World: Depictions by Western Travel Writers. New York: Routledge.

Gray, H. (1995). Black Masculinity and Visual Culture. Callaloo 18 (2), 401-405. doi:10.1353/cal.1995.0055

Halualani, R. T. (2002). In the Name of Hawaiians: Native Identities & Cultural Politics. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Hibbard, D. (2011). Buildings of Hawaii. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press.

Hunter, G. (1967, 18 October). Sun To Chase Away Gray. Honolulu Advertiser, B1:3.

Iaukea, S.L. (2011). The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossession and Reconnections in Hawai‘i. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Jay, R. (1992). The Architecture of Charles Dickey: Hawaii and California. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Kauanui, J.K. (2008). Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Lawrie, L. (1936). Sculpture. Cleveland, OH: J.H. Jansen.

Lefebvre, H. (1968). “The Right to the City” in Writings on Cities (E. Kofman & E. Labas, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lichtenstein, C., & Schregenberger, T. (2006). As Found: The Discovery of the Ordinary, British Architecture and Art of the 1950s. Zurich, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers.

Mairs, J. (2014, 26 September). Brutalist buildings: Yale Art and Architecture Building, Connecticut by Paul Rudolph. dezeen magazine. Retrieved from: and-architecture-building-paul-rudolph- brutalism/

McElroy, M. (1974). A Preservation Plan for Honolulu’s Financial District Landmarks. M.A. Thesis: University of Hawai‘i.

Mrs. Campbell hits Hawaiian statehood. 1946, 18 January. New York Times, 8.

Rohan, T. (2014). The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Rossman, M. (1969). “Hawaii’s Economy: It’s as Lively as the Hula,” Los Angeles Times (June 29, 1969), H1.

Salyer, L. (2004). Baptism by Fire: Race, Military Service, and U.S. Citizenship Policy, 1918– 1935. Journal of American History, 91 (3), 847-876.

doi. I: 10.2307/3662858

Smith, J. G. (1942). The Big Five: A Brief History of Hawaii’s Largest Firms. Honolulu: The Advertiser Publishing Co., Ltd.

Takaki, R. (1983). Pau Hana: Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii, 1835-1920. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Tengan, T. (2008). Native Men Remade: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Hawai‘i. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

The Downtown Improvement Association. (1962). An Interim Planning Report. Honolulu.

Tilton, C. (1927). The History of Banking in Hawaii. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Research Publications.

Victor Gruen Associates, Inc. (1968). Report of the studies and recommendations for a program of revitalization of the Central Business District of downtown Honolulu. Honolulu.

Walker, I. (2008). Hui Nalu, Beachboys, and the Surfing Boarder-lands of Hawai‘i. The Contemporary Pacific, 20 (1), 89-113. doi:10.1353/cp.2008.0026




How to Cite

Moses, K. L. (2018). Economies of the City: Honolulu’s Financial Plaza of the Pacific. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 17(1).