Alfred Preis and Viennese Modernism in Hawai‘i
Laura Mcguire

Preis, who was a Viennese émigré and refugee architect with no early experience designing for tropical climates, went on to become one of the most prolific mid-century regionalist and modernist Hawai‘i designers. Although he is best known for his award-winning design for the USS Arizona Memorial (1962) - one of the ships infamously sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Pries’s earlier institutional and residential commissions are arguably his most compelling. His Viennese roots directly influenced Pries’s approach to design in Hawai‘i. By engaging numerous precedents from Vienna, he eventually forged a novel idiom for Hawai‘i domestic design. This article will examine the interiors of two of Preis’s more than 100 single-family houses – the Scudder Residence (now the Scudder-Gillmar Residence) (1939-1940) and the Dr. Edward and Elsie Lau Residence (1951) – in order to highlight some of the ways in which Preis transported Viennese modern design ideas of the first three decades of the 20th century some 7,616 miles from Austria into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His interior designs for these houses evidence strong relationships with the ideas of earlier Viennese modernists about spatial planning, the aesthetic uses of materials, furnishings, and color. Perhaps more than any other influence, Preis’s Vienna experience culminated in modern architecture that was as sensorially pleasurable as Hawai‘i itself.

Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Tropical architecture, Modern diaspora, Design with climate, Alfreid Preis, Hawaiian modern architecture.

Issue 63
Year 2020
Pages 48-55

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