The Modern Honolulu

The Modern Honolulu

By Aaron Britt
In early April I was invited out to Honolulu to give a talk at the Hawaii Build and Buy Green Expo, an offer I could hardly refuse. And wanting to be as close to the Hawaiian Convention Center as I could, I took up a two-day residence at the Modern Honolulu, a rather cool new hotel just on the other side of the Ala Wai Canal. The hotel has changed hands lately, it was an Ian Schrager property just last year, but much of the design by Yabu Pushelberg and landscape designer Deborah Nevins remains intact. I had a grand time in the sophisticated spot. Read on for my little tour.

1775 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI
City view rooms start from $239

It was tough to get a decent shot of the white, thoroughly modern facade of the Modern Honolulu, but this back-bending perspective shows how the clean geometry of the building plays off the lush foliage. I took this photo from the entry of the hotel.

Not my room, sadly (but not terribly different either), this unfussy bedroom shot gives a good idea of the accommodations. Neither too proper as to be sterile, nor too heavy on local motifs, the bedrooms offered a sophisticated understatement. I quite liked mine, though I immediately had the clothes I brought strewn about so I could not take a decent photo of it.

There are two pools at the hotel, one for kids and one for adult lounging, both of which face south toward the ocean. I didn't take this photo, but it shows how the Modern manages to feel warm and tropical without screaming "Aloha."

This outdoor sitting area shows how just a few careful moves can create an inviting space. And when you're already warmed by the Hawaiian sun and cosseted by ocean breezes, restraint is about all you need.

The reception desk in the lobby has this rather charming broken surfboard sculpture just behind it. The neon yellows and busted edges of the boards—some of which are signed by the pro surfers responsible for their destruction—play nicely off the cool, neutral interior.

Just opposite the reception desk is this wall. Rather an ordinary thing, until...

You push it at either side and the center pivoting-door reveals a cool bar behind. I had drinks one night of my stay back there and for a Tuesday night just after dinner it was quite hopping. No revelers in this photo, though. I took it around 11:00 AM.

I've been to a few hotels now that pride themselves on their hip, design-forward shops. The one at the Modern is no different, with goods ranging from watches to shades to housewares to bikinis to (be still the architecture fan's heart) a Shigeru Ban monograph.

A number of designy-foodie types in Honolulu recommended the restaurant Morimoto to me before I even realized that it was in my hotel. Much less that Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto was behind it. I had sushi one evening and it was wonderfully fresh. The space itself can't quite shake that hotel razzle-dazzle that afflicts so much hospitality design, but I suppose one does want to put on something of a show for the out-of-towners.

Crummy lighting here—but then, what nightclub photographs that well?—but I did quite like the rolling topographic installation of lightbulbs on the ceiling of the Modern's nightclub, Addiction.

I didn't take this photo, obviously, but it does give an idea of the Modern's mid-century facade on the right.

Here's the view of the Marina from my room on the 12th floor. I didn't have an unobstructed view of the ocean, but clearly the Pacific is still pretty evident. I also liked the very comfy chairs from Emu.


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