New Concept Design Unveiled For Waikiki Natatorium
Nation’s leading preservation organization reveals concept design to rehabilitate one-of-a-kind war memorial to the men and women of Hawai'i
Today, as Americans prepare to honor the sacrifices of our veterans, the National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled its rehabilitation alternative for revitalizing the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium—one of the most unique tributes to those who served in World War I. The concept, designed by Hawaii’s globally-renowned engineer Dr. Hans Krock and commissioned by the National Trust, represents a simple, innovative and long-term solution that would ensure a clean and safe swim basin and a strengthened memorial.
“This rehabilitation alternative allows the Natatorium to operate as a vibrant aquatic facility, community resource and ‘living memorial’ to be enjoyed by future generations,” said Barbara Pahl, senior vice president of field services for the National Trust. “This is an environmentally responsible, cost-effective proposal—and we encourage city leaders and residents to take a close look at how this streamlined, sustainable design restores one of the state’s most recognizable historic sites.”
The clean, clear and safe swim basin rehabilitation alternative addresses core issues with the Natatorium’s existing conditions, including poor water quality, aging pipes, and deteriorated concrete deck while retaining the site’s historic integrity and thus its eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In an innovative departure from past proposals, the concept replaces the swim basin’s seawall with individual chevron units topped with decking. The chevrons would serve as a breakwater to prevent wave action against the bleachers, yet allow for sufficient ocean water to circulate in the swim basin at least six times per day. The design would further improve water quality by removing silt from the bottom of the swim basin and replacing it with inert materials that would be safe and durable.
The relative simplicity of this design—essentially creating a sheltered ocean environment that uses natural systems and wave action for water circulation—is its major advantage. By creating a “marine pool,” additional equipment such as special pumps or drainage infrastructure is not needed for maintenance. In contrast, outside of their current proposal for demolition, the City and County of Honolulu’s own rehabilitation alternative is a closed-circuit pool that requires extensive mechanical systems, chemicals, and maintenance, thus incurring ongoing energy costs.
The National Trust’s rehabilitation proposal can be accessed online. The public is encouraged to learn more about the Natatorium, view the concept design and leave feedback at: savingplaces.org/support-the-waikiki-natatoriums-future.
“We think the National Trust’s rehabilitation alternative addresses key issues that have bedeviled the Natatorium for decades while honoring everyone’s concerns and input,” said Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation. “We hope to see this fresh idea move forward, especially during the ongoing centennial of World War I.”
“After many years, we now have an option that answers the apprehensions that previously kept us locked in a circle of inactivity,” said Mo Radke, president of Friends of the Natatorium. “This new, realistic solution meets our environmental goals and charter for remembrance, respect and renewal of this magnificent venue.”
The concept was developed by Dr. Hans Krock, Emeritus Professor of Ocean and Resources Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Dr. Alfred Yee, the foremost authority in the design of concrete structures and lead engineer of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. It is the result of a collaborative effort between the National Trust and local experts and preservationists, a partnership that began with the National Trust designating the site a National Treasure in May 2014. The National Trust will continue to work with community members and other local partners and stakeholders to secure a long-term preservation solution for the Natatorium.
With this concept’s release, the National Trust and local partners are calling on the City and County of Honolulu to study Dr. Krock’s design and move forward with an engineering model to fully understand the proposal’s low-cost potential.
About Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium
Built in 1927, the Natatorium honors the 10,000 residents of Hawaii who served in World War I, including soldiers, sailors, Red Cross workers, emergency responders and missionaries. Designed by nationally renowned architect Lewis Hobart, the Natatorium features an iconic archway leading to a saltwater pool that pays tribute to Hawaii’s indigenous swimming traditions and its role in Olympic history. It is recognized as an architectural landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and remembered by generations of Hawaii locals as the place where families learned to swim together. In 1979, the Natatorium was closed to the public because of severe disrepair—and has since been considered one of Hawaii’s most endangered historic places.
About the National Treasures Program
Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is part of a growing portfolio of irreplaceable, diverse places—from ancient sites to modern monuments—that have been designated National Treasures. Learn more about the Natatorium, view the concept design and show support at: savingplaces.org/natatorium.