snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM to overhaul honolulu's blaisdell center

snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM to overhaul honolulu's blaisdell center

located in the urban heart of oahu, the neal s. blaisdell center is home to hawaii’s premiere arts and cultural venues. constructed in 1964 as a memorial for the state’s veterans and war heroes, the original complex featured an arena, concert hall, and exhibition hall. however, the campus’ aging structures and a growing need for expanded capacity prompted local authorities to update the 22-acre complex and tasked snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM with developing the site’s masterplan.

blaisdell center honolulu
image © snøhetta (also main image)



the blaisdell center, which draws nearly 800,000 visitors a year, is flanked on three sides by major arterial roads and is located near many important cultural and education venues. throughout the development of the masterplan, a series of collaborative community and stakeholder workshops helped the design team identify core values that would build on the site’s multi-layered history and shape the project. as such, the project is conceptually guided by the significance of water in hawaiian culture, and forges a deep connection to the land and a reverence for natural resources.

blaisdell center honolulu
image © snøhetta



the plans drawn up by snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM include a brand-new performance hall, an exhibition hall, a sports pavilion, a parking structure, and re-conceived public space. the development will not only restore and update the site’s historic existing structures, but also seek to strengthen the relationship between the site and the people, culture, and rich history of honolulu.

blaisdell center honolulu
image © snøhetta



‘today, the two iconic structures of the existing arena and concert hall anchor opposite ends of the site,’ explains the design team. ‘however, the campus has long struggled to balance pedestrian movement and vehicular service to the venues, resulting in a lack of defined outdoor gathering space. the master plan proposes a radical reconfiguration of the campus that connects the back-of-house facilities of all venues on site with a single, below-grade service area.’

blaisdell center honolulu
image © snøhetta



importantly, a new series of lushly vegetated gardens terrace over and conceal a back-of-house spine. the new public realm is composed of distinctive spaces, conceived as outdoor rooms, that comprise a broader system that supports a variety of outdoor performance and recreation activities. visible water features, celebrating the use of water as it moves through the site, can be categorized according to four distinct systems: a series of pools and cascading waterfalls that filter and aerate water; a historically significant fish pond that supports a diverse aquatic habitat; an interactive fountain; and a stormwater management system along the street edge that filters and helps recharge groundwater.

blaisdell center honolulu
image © moare



as part of the project, the site’s mid-century arena and concert hall will be carefully maintained and upgraded, while new structures are situated between them to improve connectivity. home to the honolulu opera theatre, the honolulu symphony orchestra, and several dance companies, the concert hall is a historic structure that has served the community for multiple generations. here, the design takes a light touch, maintaining its characteristically rectilinear structure and low arches at the base, preserving the architectural vernacular of the open-air lanai.

snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM to overhaul honolulu's blaisdell center
image © snøhetta



the multi-purpose arena’s scalloped, circular form is maintained while the interior spaces are demolished and renovated for a new and modern seating bowl that will allow it to better host amplified performances and rock concerts. the new structures on site are designed to evoke the concepts of erosion, taking on the sculptural quality of being shaped by water and wind. the new performance hall and arts ensemble will provide expanded opportunities for rehearsal and entertainment, while a new exhibition hall will replace the existing one with a more dynamic building that adds a third more exhibition space and expanded conference capacity.

snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM to overhaul honolulu's blaisdell center
image © moare

snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM to overhaul honolulu's blaisdell center
image © snøhetta

snøhetta, WCIT, and AECOM to overhaul honolulu's blaisdell center
image © snøhetta



project info:


project client team:
city & county of honolulu—department of design & construction
city & county of honolulu—department of planning & permitting
city & county of honolulu—department of enterprise services
project website:
design team: AECOM; snøhetta; WCIT; theatre projects; gensler (master plan phase)


project facts
original construction: 1964
total site area: 22 acres
total public realm: 8 acres (current); 10 acres (planned)


arena: 6,500 seats (current), 8,200-8,600 seats (planned)
concert hall: 2,147 seats (current), equal or better (planned)
exhibition hall: 65,000 sf (current), 95,000 sf (planned)
parking: 1,400 stalls (current), 2,300 stalls (planned)
public space: 368,000 sf (current), 535,000 sf (planned)


new facilities:
performance hall: 1,500 seats
sports pavilion: 2,500 seats
arts ensemble: 35,000 sf
food & beverage: 25,000 sf

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