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Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, July 3, 2000

The new bandstand at
Kapiolani Park seems destined
to become the jewel of . . .

Waikiki’s playground
Booking the bandstand

By Burl Burlingame


ARCHITECT David Ayer, explaining the new bandstand in Kapiolani Park, called it "Contemporary Hawaiian Victoriana" in style, and that's an apt buzzphrase, both for the bandstand and for the current spate of "sense of place" public structures springing up around town.

The new bandstand, opening tomorrow in a Fourth of July celebration, is the fourth to have been built in the park.

Photo By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The new gazebo at Kapiolani Park, above, encircled with
man-made ponds filled with recirculating water, resembles
the original gazebo from the late 1800, below.

View from Diamond Head, Editions Limited

The first -- very Sgt. Pepper in style -- was a modest park gazebo erected sometime in the 1880s on Makee Island (where the Honolulu Zoo stands now).

It was replaced in 1926 by a whimsical ovoid-and-triangle building. Designed by Hart Wood, the structure would not have looked out of place in the land of Oz.

In 1968, a concrete, utilitarian bandstand was designed by Wilson, Okamoto and Associates, squatting in the Ewa end of the park like an abandoned bomber hangar.

Which means bandstands are replaced in Kapiolani Park roughly every 40 years, so get used to this one for now. Architects Stringer and Tusher -- where Ayer works -- were inspired by the park gazebo concept, plus the picturesque quality of the Wood design, and came up with a really, really big gazebo. Equal attention was spent on the space surrounding the structure.

It rises, Parthenon-like, from an elevation terraced with broad steps that double as seats, and is mirrored in reflecting ponds. Artist Maxfield Parrish would have felt right at home.

This nostalgic vision of a postcard past is right on the money, says Mayor Jeremy Harris. "We're trying to recapture the charm of old Hawaii. We've been listening to the visitor industry, and they're telling us we've lost so much in the last 20 years that makes Hawaii unique. It's time to bring it back."

Harris first encountered the previous bandstand while picnicking there after his University of Hawai'i graduation at the nearby Waikiki Shell.

"Oh, even then I thought it was ugly," said Harris. "Such a lost opportunity! This new bandstand is like a dream realized. It's so well built, like a piece of furniture."

City and County of Honolulu
This structure, surrounded by stagnant ponds, replaced
the original gazebo in 1926.

Even for a politician, Harris is surprised by the speed in which the new bandstand was created, and within a few weeks it will be joined by a "hula mound" on Kuhio Beach.

"We started, what, last September? It usually takes more than a year to build a city building, particularly with all the landscaping. Record time. We rushed it toward the end to get it ready for the Lions convention last week, because we wanted 40,000 Lions to see it. And it was like a magnet. I think every Lion had their picture taken by it."

The bandstand is deceptively simple. Ayer explained that once the gazebo concept was chosen, the next trick was to make it useful. The large roof contains rolldown walls that provide security at night, and to focus sound during musical events. The ceiling also has drop-down speakers, and performers have jacks built right into the structure for musical instruments.

"A true gazebo has to project music for 360 degrees, and that might be fine for Victorian brass bands, but not for modern performances," said Ayer. "That's not very flexible. We needed a building that was a bridge between the gazebo and the Hart Wood bandstand, plus larger and more technically capable. We spent a great deal of effort on the sound."

Preservation architect Glenn Mason wonders if it will work as advertised. "My main concern is that they started with a vision of what they wanted it to look like -- a gazebo on steroids -- and then had to work in electronic compromises to get it to do what it's supposed to do."

City and County of Honolulu
The last bandstand, built in 1968, was torn down to make
way for the new gazebo which will be dedicated tomorrow.
Here, the audience was forced to endure the sun's heat
during performances because there were no trees in the area.

"The sound is focused toward the seats and diminishes toward the tennis courts," said Ayer. "Acoustics are always a hot topic. Some will think the sound is great, others won't."

The gazebo sits high because the support facilities are hidden beneath -- dressing rooms, sound controls, folding chair and table storage. There's an elevating lift that combines ADA requirements and the need for an equipment dumbwaiter.

"There was quite a bit of discussion among performing groups to find a common ground, to make a structure that would accommodate everyone from a small symphony to a single person," said Ayer. "That wound up meaning that as much as possible was hidden from view."

Mason worries that audiences will be staring uphill. "Will you be able to see the dancers' feet? They built the building and then raised the park around it? Sounds like the University softball field, yes? Also, the bathroom had to be added to another building, which means yet another building in an open park."

The other half of the $3 million project was the landscaping, and the architects -- and the mayor, naturally -- agree that the addition of reflecting pools to the dusty end of the park has a glamorous and cooling effect on the landscape.

"John Groark and Associates did the technical part of pond engineering," said Ayer. "They are organic ponds, but unlike the ponds of a century ago -- which were stagnant -- these are recirculating. The idea was to create a kind of gleaming jewel in the park."

The bandstand isn't exactly where the old one was. The location was dictated by the location of the existing trees; the bandstand and the seats are among the trees. Audiences at the old bandstand sweltered in the sun, and were 50 yards away from the stage.

"This part of the new bandstand is very successful," said Mason. "In fact, it's wonderful. You're surrounded by ironwoods and it's cool and inviting, and the view toward the sea is great."

The new Kapiolani Park Bandstand opens tomorrow, sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu and the Waikiki Improvement Association.

Bullet Blessing: 1 p.m., traditional Hawaiian blessing by Na Kahu John Keola Lake and DavidKaupu, with regal procession of Hawaiian Societies, the Royal Guard, chants, purification of the area and cutting of maile lei and kupukupu fern.
Bullet Concert: Free entertainment 2 to 4:30 p.m. featuring the Brothers Cazimero, Henry Kapono, Sistah Robi Kahakalau, Roy Sakuma's Ukulele Keiki, Makaha Sons, Halau Hula Olana, Halau Hula O Maiki, Royal Hawaiian Band
Bullet Refreshments: Free hot dogs, chili, watermelon, popcorn, shave ice and cold drinks
Bullet Information: 523-4385

Booking the bandstand

Want to book the new bandstand? It's there, after all, to enrich Waikiki's cultural diversity.

Nonprofit groups can use the bandstand seven days a week, including evenings. The cost is an attendant fee of $10 an hour, which is the City facility average, although fees may be waived for week-day events, when there are already attendants on duty. If there are more than 100 people involved and a bunch of equipment, a refundable deposit may be requested to cover potential damage.

Scheduling is handled by recreation director Joan Ushijima at 971-2525. After the group is scheduled, a permit is required from the Parks Department at the Honolulu Municipal Building. The permit is free.

No commercial use is allowed. This means you, wedding people.

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