In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • US Urbanism and Its Pacific Histories
  • Kelema Lee Moses (bio)
Sean Connelly, Learning from Lē'ahi, Koa Gallery, Kapi'olani Community College, Kalāhu, Pālolo, Kona, O'ahu, 09 23– 12 21, 2021.

Kapi'olani Community College's Koa Gallery is located on the slopes of Lē'ahi, a crater on the island of O'ahu that the United States government designated as Diamond Head Military Reservation in 1906. Attuned to the site specificity and history of this place, Sean Connelly's solo exhibition, Learning from Lē 'ahi, visually exposed the environmental and societal effects that the US military has imposed on the Hawaiian Islands. Through bold and engaging visuals—from billboards and street signs to 3D models and GIS maps— Learning from Lē'ahimakes central the role of the architect in perpetuating militarized urbanism in Hawai'i. The show persuasively envisioned possibilities for architectural demilitarization that would lead to sustainable futures for human and more-than-human beings. Learning from Lē'ahioffered visitors an opportunity to reflect on and process their relationship to the Hawaiian Islands as Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), arrivants, settlers, and/or tourists. The exhibition encouraged architects to acknowledge a shared responsibility to the land and its people by challenging—through text, image, and sound—discourses that have relegated Hawai'i to the academic and architectural periphery.

Learning from Lē 'ahiwas Connelly's latest work to situate architecture's practice and pedagogy within an activist ethos. Connelly is a self-described "expert witness geomancer mystic" from Honolulu, working as an artist, design theorist, and architectural historian. 1Their architectural interventions within galleries and cityscapes appear as critical commentaries on the environmentalism and materiality rooted in Pacific Islander mores. Connelly engages Kanaka Maoli sociospatial epistemologies that are spiritual and sensory repositories of cultural knowledge to produce projects that have consistently critiqued settler colonialism and the architect's role in the objectification of Hawai'i's lands. 2Their site-specific works center Indigenous placemaking and imagine architecture's future possibilities. These concerns have been in place for a long time. Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s)(2017), for instance, exemplifies the [End Page 419]way architecture's materiality is tethered to place-based knowledge. The long angular form in Honolulu's Foster Botanical Garden was constructed from local wood and features volcanic rocks that produce an aestheticized flooring and thatched loulu palms that provided a thermal protectant. Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s)used Hawaiian building techniques and materials for architectural construction that are in harmony with the land and its people.

Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s)was inspired by Hawaiian hale, traditional shelters for sleeping, cooking, storing canoes, social activities, and communal gatherings. Connelly adopted Hawaiian hale construction methods for the structure to make visible what they describe as a "blind spot" in the theory, history, and education of architecture. 3Until the early twentieth century, Kanaka families and "house-builders" constructed hale using pou (posts), kaupaku (ridgepoles), a'ho (small sticks), and o'a (rafters) latched together with pili grass, pandanus leaves, or ti leaves. 4Hale have vast, open interior spaces that do not make use of columned structural supports. This Pacific Island design feature, an architectural feat not deployed in the United States until the mid-twentieth century, dates back thousands of years.

Connelly's desire to interject a deeper historical knowledge about Hawai'i's lands, peoples, and epistemologies into architectural narratives resonated with Dominic Leong, an architect with familial ties to Hawai'i. 5Connelly's work appealed to Leong, in part, because of its engagement with Hawaiian architecture and US legacies of colonial trauma and unrest in the Pacific. In an interview with Flux Hawaii, Leong remarked that he had "a specific responsibility within the architectural discipline, as [a member of the] Kanaka Maoli diaspora, to help pluralize the canon and articulate a more enriched understanding of architecture that is not limited by a Eurocentric legacy." 6In 2020, Connelly and Leong partnered to establish Hawai'i Non-Linear (HNL), a nonprofit collaborative that seeks to "empower Indigenous futures in the built environment" through architectural education. 7 Learning from Lē'ahi's moniker was emblazoned across the...