Hawai'i Futures is a virtual exhibition on island cities, and their futures. It is a story about island living, and the values that have made oceanic islands home for millions of people, for thousands of years.

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Island Vision

Technics, Lost

Since olden times, Hawaiian resource management promotes the continuous state of an islands total ecology. Resources like water, soil, wind, and history are maximized within the intensified capacities of each island.

Today's systems fragment island ecosystems, such as in the division of resources into segregated urban, agriculture, and conservation districts. This breaks the linkages between ocean and mountain, home and food, and people and culture.

This installation refers to the systems of traditional Hawaiian resource management, which dispersed across the islands, and as Mary Pukui describes, "required the utilization of the native resources of sustenance to a maximum."

Hawaiians co-evolved to secure abundance for a growing population. A science of land and sky enabled islanders to concentrate and disperse across watersheds in proportion to its varying capacities. The consumption and generation of resources on each island was systemically managed as diversified economic units, nested in magnitudes of orders of moku, ahupua'a, 'ili, and 'āina.

A broken state structure.

Today's political structures disconnect people from the resource capacities of watersheds. Districts across city and state bureaucracies do not overlap, decreasing the ability to systemically manage the land between mountain and ocean as a single unit.

Broken land-use system.

The traditional system of land use classification corresponded with the unique elevation, flora, fauna, water flow, weather patterns, and spiritual phenomena of each watershed. These resource zones were maximized through an integrated network of kauhale (dwelling), dry-land gardens (mala), wetland taro patches (lo‘i kalo), and fishponds (loko i‘a). The physical integration of home, food, and ecosystem promoted an emotional reverence for these resources that permeated throughout every level of the Hawaiian social structure and political economy.

The current system for land classification relies upon state land-use districts, organized according to economic function, rather than the ecological patterns of the watershed. Typically, mountain and marine areas are zoned for conservation uses, while coastal, lowland, and riparian areas are zoned for either urban or agriculture uses.

This single-function approach to land-use has impaired the watershed’s ability to absorb and filter the flow of water before it enters the ocean, resulting in the large-scale fragmentation of mountain-to-ocean habitats. Although setbacks and special management areas exist to address coastal management, additional measures must also be taken to protect the riparian areas along the stream. Urban and agricultural areas are prone to release harmful effluents—fertilizers, pesticides, oils, sewage, and other pollutants—into nearby streams and eventually down into coastal and marine habitats. Channelized streams concentrate the flow of these effluents, while also failing to provide habitable water depths for aquatic life and increasing the chance of flooding during heavy rains.

State land-use districts force physical separations between where people live, grow food, and protect the environment. Consequently, there is a lack of zoning regulations to safeguard local agriculture and conservation activities within urban areas. This separation is based on western planning ideals, and undermines the cultural connections between people, food production, and the ecosystem that make Hawaii unique. Growing food becomes less and less a part of urban life, which threatens the long-term security of Hawai'i’s food system as more people move to expanding urban areas.

False agriculture and lack of public access.

Land tenure has shifted from a familial act of guardianship to private property. The privatized ownership of land along riparian and coastal areas blocks public access, decreasing the value of the stream and shoreline as a productive habitat and educational / recreational resource. 81% of the total land area currently under cultivation is used to grow sugar, macadamia nuts, pineapples, and coffee for export markets. The centralized ownership of the majority of agriculture lands directly affects local food security, particularly for land-owners who grow export commodities instead of local produce. Despite a heavy emphasis of conservation efforts on public lands, 90% of invasive species originates on privately owned properties.

Sea level rise, flooding, and erosion.

The current disconnect between land-use and island ecology allows for the development of areas prone to flooding, tsunami, and sea-level rise. As a result, zoning fails to fully protect public health and safety from natural disaster. Several sections of the proposed rail transit fall within a 1/4 mile of coastal areas where sea-levels are projected to rise, placing future transit-oriented developments under risk.

The developed footprint of caution.

Environmental degradation is historically linked to agriculture requiring large-scale land clearing and the use of fuel intensive machinery, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to intensify production. Agricultural uses can be just as detrimental to the ecosystem as urban areas. As such, agricultural lands are considered part of the island's total developed footprint. This footprint becomes larger if one considers the conservation areas invaded by invasive species.

Based on rainfall, soil types, sunshine, and historical population distributions, O‘ahu’s ideal lands for agriculture are in the areas of present day Honolulu. The zoning of these lands for urban development has resulted in the loss of O‘ahu’s true prime agriculture lands. Areas currently zoned for agricultural uses are typically in more arid climates and rely heavily upon water diverted from aquifers through man-made infrastructures.

O kau aku, o ka ia la mai, pelā ka nohona o ka ‘ohana.
"From you and from him--so lived the family."
The farmer gave to the fisherman, the fisherman to the farmer.

State to Streaming

Over the next generations, how will we accommodate a growing urban population? This exhibition address this question across four projective scales:

The ahupua‘a realigns land-use and political districts with the watershed to reestablish island ecology as the primary organizing element of the built-environment.

The 'ili establishes a maximum developable footprint and ecological setbacks to reduce sprawl, increase open space, and reorganize neighborhoods around food, ecosystem, and community resources.

The kīpuka creates a zone for riparian, coastal, and forest lands that should be reclaimed restored as a public natural resource.

The kauhale organizes mixed-use urban areas around agricultural resources and is the fundamental unit of the island’s regenerative resource infrastructure.