- The Kamehameha III Statue in Thomas Square
On April 11, 2019 I happened to meet Russell Chung, the Executive Vice President of PBR Hawaii & Associates Inc. I was leaving a meeting in downtown Honolulu as he was arriving for one, but during our brief conversation I learned that PBR Hawaii, a land planning and landscape architecture firm, had designed the features surrounding the Kamehameha III Statue in Thomas Square and that Russell had been the landscape architect/designer in charge of the project.
I told him I was one of the editors of The Hawaiian Journal of History and that the lead article in HJH 2018 was about Kamehameha III, or Kauikeaouli, and featured a painting of him as a child on the front cover. I also mentioned that we had included an article about the dedication of the Kamehameha III statue, which happened on July 31, 2018, and that we had placed a photo of the statue on the back cover. I told him I would send him a copy.
After Russell received the copy of HJH 2018, he sent me a thank you note that included the backstory on the design features surrounding the statue and their deep cultural connections. It is an amazing story of thoughtful planning and follows here in his words. The photo [End Page 147] of the statue that he references, the one that was taken on the morning of the 2018 winter solstice sunrise, is on the back cover of this year’s Journal.
It was nice to have met you over at Rob’s office [Rob Iopa, president of WCIT Architecture]. I received the copy of The Hawaiian Journal of History you sent, which includes a section on the dedication of the Kamehameha III statue. Thank you very much, and I most appreciate it!
It’s been a five-year journey for me, and we’re not done yet. The next phase is in the works, which will include other improvements to the park.
The story of Kauikeaouli and the history was truly fascinating for me, and although the layout for the park is simple, we really tried to instill elements that spoke of its culture and history.
Our main goal was to educate people (especially keiki) about this historic place and through strategic design, provide an intriguing learning experience by way of discovering its kaona [hidden meaning].
As I briefly mentioned to you, the plaza and flag pole (only one of four places in Hawai‘i where the Hawaiian flag flies alone) is also a solar compass. Attached is a picture I took on December 21, 2018 of the winter solstice sunrise.
There are seven concentric rings, or bands, in the plaza, intentionally designed around the flag to represent the eight islands of Hawai‘i. This was to declare that the historic event that took place at Thomas Square was not only about honoring Honolulu or O‘ahu, but about the impact that it had to all of Hawai‘i. In essence, the rings around the flag pole are also the lei from each island.
To further convey representation of each island, the radius of the rings/bands are proportioned to the relative square miles of each island. I used a 50-foot diameter (for Hawai‘i as the fiftieth state) as a baseline dimension for the island of Hawai‘i, as it became fitting for what we were trying to accomplish. So proportionately, we determined the radii of each island in relation to Hawai‘i (50 feet), Maui (12.7 feet), and so on, down to Kaho‘olawe (5.3 feet), the smallest island. Hawai‘i, being the largest island, does not have a band (an eighth ring) as the plaza would have been too large (and costly). We tried implanting other “markers,” but it was becoming too fussy. So our plan was to deliberately use Kauikeaouli as our “marker” and place the statue at [End Page 148] exactly 50 feet from the flag pole to represent Hawai‘i island, where he was born.
We knew before the statue was even designed where we wanted him to stand. Kauikeaouli is purposely aligned on...