Ala Wai Centennial (AWC) Memorial Project is a revolutionary land art and climate justice initiative launched in 2017 in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. The memorial project advocates for the contemporary recovery of Hawaiian fishponds and taro fields in the heart of Waikīkī.
Ala Wai means waterway, and is the namesake of both the watershed and canal that form Waikīkī, the primary economic tourist district of Honolulu located on the Hawaiian Island of O‘ahu. The canal turns 100 years old between 2021-2028.
Ala Wai Centennial Memorial Project is a call for reparations for the militarization of ‘Āina (land/that which feeds). The land art concept aims to confront the contentious history of U.S. Urbanism in Hawai‘i and catalyze the practical, real-world healing of Waikīkī. The land art project advocates for the reclamation of 70-acre Fort DeRussy Military Reservation as wetland fishpond (loko i‘a), then expands to encompasses at least 350 acres of existing open space landscape surrounding the Ala Wai Canal. The outcome is to heal the history Waikīkī in the ecological and biocultural recovery achieved through a constellation of networked sites from Fort DeRussy outward: the underutilized municipal Ala Wai Golf Course, Kapiolani Park, and four streams–all connected to the famed Waikīkī Beach, Diamond Head State Monument, and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl via watershed.
The project utilizes the Hawai‘i Futures Framework for Ahupua‘a Recovery (2010), which adapts concepts of American land use planning with ecological thinking and Native Hawaiian resource management and biocultural restoration. The project applies an architectural approach to history, theory, visual information mapping, and conceptual planning to revisualize and reimagine the past and future of “non-linear waikiki.” As a public art project and climate justice initiative, AWC presents a unique case study that reintroduces the concept of Honolulu to the United States. The goal: to call for reparations for the militarization of ‘āina (Hawaiian: land/that which feeds) that repair and regenerate indigenous futures for Hawai‘i.
Although Hawaiian, Waikīkī is also uniquely American. The Indigenous historically cultivated Hawaiian settlement was drained and filled under the charge of the illegal US Territorial Government’s Waikiki Reclamation Project (1906 - 1928), following the overthrow and annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States (1875-1898). The reclamation project was a key part of a larger project of the US War Department (now Department of Defense) to transform O‘ahu into a giant military base. O‘ahu was equipped with the World’s most advanced coastal land defense system of its time...
The unjust reclamation project destabilized the Native food system of O‘ahu, and displaced Native Hawaiians and farmers of culture at the same time as their language was repressed. It began with the construction of Fort DeRussy (1909-1911) and culminated in the fatefully incomplete formation of the Ala Wai Canal (1921-1928). The reclamation project, as part of a larger military defense network, interconnected with other military sites at Le‘ahi (Diamond Head Military Reservation), Fort Armstrong, Fort Schafter, and Fort Kamehameha. And, equipped with a rail gun that whipped around the island of O‘ahu from the naval station at Pu‘uloa (Pearl Harbor) to Hale‘iwa, and onward.
Today, for the 300,000 residents that live around the canal, the 10,000,000 more who visit annually, and those who have been displaced detrimentally, the Ala Wai Canal is just the surface of an enormous and vast scar. And while Waikīkī today is at the epicenter of a controversial battle between the local community and the American government over how to address the climate change risks of the Ala Wai Canal, there is now a strong growing belief a better future for Waikīkī is indeed possible. And it begins with healing Hawaii from the traumas of the United States.
Ala Wai Centennial Memorial Project originally began as 2006 public art project called “Decolonizing Architecture.” The project launched as a website in 2010 called www.Hawaii-Futures.com that featured an innovative series of pre-NFT infographics diagraming a “framework for ahupua‘a recovery.” With the support of the Santa Fe Art Institute, Taiji and Naoko Terasaki Family Foundation, and the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Hawai‘i Futures was expanded into the Ala Wai Centennial Memorial Project, launched as www.alawaicentennial.org in 2017 accompanied by the mobile community studio called “Holodeck Ahupua‘a.” Since 2020, Ala Wai Centennial has been highlighted in CityLab, Places Journal, and as been utilized as the focus of architectural design studios at Columbia University and MIT. With the momentum to produce change and healing at larger and larger scales, Ala Wai Centennial Memorial project is now fiscally sponsored by the non-profit art and architecture organization, HAWAI‘I NON-LINEAR, co-founded by Sean Connelly (After Oceanic) and Dominic Leong (Leong Leong).
GSAPP / MIT Architecture Studios (2020 - Ongoing)
Protect Our Ala Wai Watershed (2019)
Waterway, anti-essay (2018)
Waterway, earth sculpture (2018)
Ahupua‘a Holodeck (2017 - 2018)
Visiting / Support
Please kindly email AWC to support our project.
Artist talks, visits, and tours are available upon request.