Environmental Living in Postwar Honolulu: Harry W. Seckel's Woodlawn Terrace Subdivision
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"The modern Hawaiian house," Harry W. Seckel, FAIA (1906-1978) asserted in Hawaiian Residential Architecture, "should be one that is as one with its immediate environment as possible." Published in 1954, the Honolulu architect's book tapped into an important zeitgeist in modernism. individual architects from Japan to California, reacting against what they perceived as a growing conformity in residential architecture, sought to create more climatically, culturally responsive homes and communities. Charismatic and eloquent, Seckel easily assumed his role from 1950 until 1965 as Hawai'i's unofficial public spokesman for advancing a similar type of regional distinction. Significantly, the release of Hawaiian Residential Architecture coincided with the opening of his new Honolulu subdivision, Woodlawn Terrace. From 1954 to 1965, Seckel completed fifty-seven single-family homes along the slopes of the Wa'Ahila Ridge. More than half a century later, fifty-three remain standing with their historic character-defining features largely intact, from tongue-and-groove vertical redwood siding and wide eaves to integrated lānaʻis and plate-glass windows with views of the natural environment. Despite his accomplishments, Seckel is a largely obscure figure in Hawai'i; most of his like-minded Honolulu colleagues and their surviving homes are similarly under acknowledged in literature and the media. Vulnerable to redevelopment due to a lack of regulatory oversight, Hawai'i's mid-century modern houses deserve greater public recognition for their historic significance and continued livability. The following narrative of Harry Seckel's own ideation of the modern Hawai'ian home provides a more comprehensive understanding of this building type in a historic context, connecting the trajectory of Seckel's cosmopolitan career to key trends in pre- and postwar modern architecture and analyzing the historic functional and aesthetic design components of his Woodlawn Terrace subdivision and 1960 Wallace and Maizie Sanford residence.