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Contents Written Analysis

A Brief History and Comparative Analysis

Graphic Description

Axonometric of Typical Housing Style Perspective drawings

Form/Spacial Analysis

Community Scale Built Form Circulation Networks Pedestrian and Transit Access Land Use Patterns Open/Public Space Affordable, Market Rate, and Luxury Housing


A Brief History and Comparative Analysis of Kapolei’s Planning and Development with the Garden City Movement History and Development Kapolei, located on the West side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, is unique in its history, ethnic make-up, and location. Although Kapolei’s development is distinct, the current and impending difficulties it faces as a city tells a story often retold throughout urban history. Kapolei has been conceptualized in response to rising land prices with the goal of creating a secondary urban hub and more importantly--jobs. It has been branded, rather idealistically, as “The Second City” with its shiny new commercial buildings proclaiming ‘if you build it they shall come’. Kapolei is approximately 2650 acres (4.14 square miles) and has a population of about 15,186 people according to the most recent 2010 census data1.  Kapolei is a young city experiencing both growth spurts and growing pains.

In 1890, the area now known as Kapolei were sugarcane fields belonging to the Ewa Plantation. This plantation was owned by James Campbell, a rather influential industrialist, who purchased huge swaths of arid land and transformed them to arable agricultural opportunities through irrigation techniques2. To facilitate the production of sugar, a railroad was also built in 1890 to bring supplies and equipment from Honolulu to Kapolei and transport refined sugar from Kapolei to Pearl Harbor for export3. In 1970 the plantation and land were sold to the Oahu Sugar Company which operated until 19944. The land was then purchased by the state with the intention of providing land for the Hawaiian homesteads. While this land had been made usable by the sugar companies, it had also been irreparably tarnished. It is believed that chemical spillage from agricultural pesticides began in 1954, creating what is now a brown-field site5.

Socio-Economics

Following the market boom in the 1980s, the Hawaii Housing Authority decided to take action. They selected the former sugarcane fields as the site for a new urban core and began constructing one of eight housing subdivisions called ‘the villages’. They built 40% affordable housing, which is far higher than the typical requirement of 10%6. The City helped to attract developers by providing infrastructure and building an elementary school, middle school, high school, and library. In order to create this urban core they moved local government offices jobs into new business parks alongside commercial retail space. One of the motivations to create an urban hub on the western side of the island was to create jobs for Leeward residents who primarily commute into the business core, Honolulu. Commuter traffic from the west side of the island has continued to increase as housing development sprawled westward in search for cheaper land. Daily commutes range from one and a half to three hours, and are primarily by car.

1 2 3 4 5 6

US Census Bureau, 2010, ‘Kapolei CDP’ Environmental Protection Agency, 2011, ‘Kapolei Project Brings Affordable Housing to Kapolei’ The Hawaiian Railroad Society, 2009, ‘The History of the Hawaiian Railroad Society’ US Census Bureau, 2010, ‘Kapolei CDP’ Ibid Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, 2009, ‘Affordable Housing in Hawaii’


Kapolei is also fascinating because of its incredibly diverse population. Not only is it made up of a wide range of ethnicities and mixes, it is rather equal in its distribution. This creates a minority-majority which is not seen across the state or even Oahu. According to the 2010 US Census Data, 35% of Kapolei’s residents reported two or more ethnicities.  Following multi-ethnic residents, the largest groups are Asian at (34.4%),  Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (14.4%), White (13%), and Latino/Hispanic (11.2%). Whereas Honolulu, for example, does have a majority with 54.8% Asian, followed by 17.1% white, and only 16.3% reporting two or more races7.

Other issues Kapolei’s master planners wanted to re-mediate are caused by socioeconomic factors. The goal was to create a city with a racially and economically diverse population. The Leeward side of Oahu has a reputation as being poor and somewhat rough. The homeless population mainly resides in the neighboring cities of Nanakuli and Waianae partially due to the Methamphetamine epidemic in Hawaii. In both cities the largest ethnic populations are Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders (Nanakuli 41.6% and Waianae 30.6%)8.  The National Substance Abuse Index shows that Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders make up 76.1% of admissions to rehabilitation centers for Methamphetamine abuse in Hawaii9.

Comparative Analysis Such idealism that is evident in the planning of Kapolei is preceded by theories such as Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of To-morrow. Howard’s prescription to rectify the ill-conditions of overcrowded cities with poor sanitation was “to raise the standard of health and comfort of all true workers of whatever grade… [to] achieve being a healthy, natural, and economic combination of town and country life…”. His idea of the perfect city would be democratic in the sense that people of all class would live together and would provide opportunity to residents of all trades. A garden city would be approximately 6,000 acres and have about 32,000 people living and working there10. In the middle of the town would be a central park surrounded by a library, hospital, museums, a town hall and the like; encircled by rings of housing on generous 30’ by 120’ lots. He also envisions a 420 foot wide ‘Grand Avenue’ creating a greenbelt and additional open space. Beyond the houses would be manufactures adjacent to a railway to provide easy transportation of goods for export11. In the outskirts of the city would be agricultural land providing most of the food for the 32,000 residents. The railway would be between the manufactures and farmers to provide access for both industries in the case of a surplus.

Kapolei follows most of the tenants set forward by Howard. As mentioned earlier, Kapolei was planned to incorporate a wide range of people of different classes and professions. They engineered such diversity by creating a large stock of affordable houses and building luxury housing with accompanying golf course. It also is designed to facilitate a vast array of job types. The clusters of commercial buildings are home to government functions, corporate offices, and professional practices. Between the commercial zone and the ‘villages’ housing is the Kapolei Regional Park, serving a similar function to the Grand Avenue Howard proposes. Traveling even further toward the outskirts of Kapolei are agricultural land to the West and industrial manufacturing to the South. Unlike Howard’s Garden City, Kapolei’s fields do not and never have directly served the people in the area. It was used solely for sugar cane or pineapple, most of which was for export. Both the agricultural and industrial areas were served by the Oahu railway until about 1947 and provided the ease of access Howard imagined12.

In plan, it becomes clear that Kapolei’s design was influenced by the garden city movement and had similar drivers. The overcrowding of the current central hub, Honolulu, has become problematic especially because of poor traffic conditions. For the most part, Kapolei would be seen as successful garden city because it has the best of both town and country. Kapolei could be improved by fully employing the ideas of the garden city if the railways were still commissioned and the adjacent agricultural land could provide for Kapolei’s residents’ food needs. With the rising cost of fossil fuels and subsequently food prices (most of Hawaii’s food is imported), it has become clear that Howard was far ahead of his time in predicting the need for traffic calming and indirectly, less dependence on gasoline. 7 8 9 10 11 12

US Census Bureau, 2010, ‘Kapolei CDP’ Ibid Hawaii Health Information Corporation, 2011, ‘Meth Admissions Rising in Hawaii’ Ebenezer Howard, 1898, ‘The Garden Cities of To-Morrow’ Ibid The Hawaiian Railroad Society, 2009, ‘The History of the Hawaiian Railroad’


Kapolei, Hawaii: A Morphological Analysis  

Using available GIS, maps were created to examine the emerging city, Kapolei, at multiple scales to dissect the forms created by infrastruct...

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