Flowers thrive where there is water
By Senen Antonio, Architect and Planner, DPZ
There is a Hawaiian saying that goes "Mohala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua". Translated, it means "Flowers thrive where there is water", or "Thriving people are found where living conditions are good."1 The pattern of human settlement in Maui and the other islands, as evidenced by early Ahupua`a, had historically been influenced by this tenet, which suggests not only environmental sustainability, but social and cultural sustainability as well.
Unfortunately, many of the more recently developed communities in the islands have not always been guided by this philosophy.
Maui, and Hawaii at large, is continually evolving, as social, economic, political and technological changes and advancements demand new or altered forms and functions for places.
These random demands of modern life increasingly threaten the fabric, and eventually the livability, of our towns and cities. Population growth and migration, transportation and infrastructure demands and expectations for a higher standard of life bear upon the quality of the built environment, and, until recently, often with unsatisfactory results.
In response to these pressures, several concerned architects, urban designers and planners banded in the late 1980s with the goal of reforming the built environment through a return to Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). Their response brought attention to the crisis of ad hoc urban development, and in turn they proposed a less wasteful alternative to suburban sprawl. Some twenty years later, TNDs can now be seen on the ground in the United States, and indeed around the world in new communities, in the revitalization of older neighborhoods and downtown districts, in metropolitan and regional growth plans, and even in the retrofitting of suburban shopping centers.
The basic principles behind the movement are universal. They promote the creation of real communities with pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods, mixed uses and streets shaped by buildings and landscape. The movement has grown to broad application, its principles extending to a wide range of development contexts, densities and design. The principles project an ideal of a sustainable quality of life that competes with the American suburban dream.
At the regional level the movement promotes environmental and agricultural conservation, as well as the equitable distribution of public transportation and housing, so that important destinations such as employment, cultural and recreational centers are served by public transit. At the neighborhood level TNDs promote compact, mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-friendly increments of community building. Appropriate detailing of public space such as streets, and their interface with private buildings, is important to ensure the comfort and safety of the pedestrian. The varying degrees of density and their corresponding built forms are governed by the Transect - an organizational concept which proposes appropriate detailing (lot sizes, road widths, building form and function, etc.) according to each development's classification within a continuum from a more rural to more urban context.
Traditional Neighborhood Development in the Hawaiian context, via a strong focus on traditional neighborhood development and the public engagement process, offers unique opportunities for capitalizing upon and reinforcing the innate sense and feeling of community. This is achieved by focusing on the unique story of each community towards developing and nurturing the special, appropriate balance of uses and activities in the area; leveraging investments in projects like civic/community facilities and spaces to complement and enhance private initiatives; strengthening the existing and emerging development context; and protecting culturally and environmentally significant sites and areas. Our towns and cities should present a mix of uses and activities for the neighborhood, where residents, workers and visitors can walk the streets, meet and engage each other and walk between destinations. They must offer places to live, work, shop and eat; provide opportunities for cultural enrichment, learning and recreation; and present each community at large with an identifiable center, a gathering place and a common ground for celebrating and sharing stories.
Traditional Neighborhood Development in Hawaii brings the tremendous opportunity to mitigate the threat of continued sprawl on the islands and instead create and enhance compact communities that are great places to live, work, visit and recreate; that become important foci of community pride and are economically successful, as well as environmentally and culturally sustainable, developments.
Olowalu provides a dramatic setting for the proposed development like no other locale: set against the emerald lushness of West Maui Mountains, from which the Olowalu Stream emerges and meanders through the site, before finally reaching the blue expanse of the Au`au Channel on the site's edge, all under a perfect azure canopy of sky. Olowalu presents the opportunity to create a new town guided by principles of sound development and growth, and by a strong sense of community life responsive to the land and local culture, all in the spirit of caring for Olowalu's future.
1 From `Olelo No`eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings, No 2178. Collected, translated and annotated by Mary Kawena Puku`i, 1983.