A renown photographer of modern architecture is returning to his hometown of Honolulu this week to share some of his work, and help local residents better appreciate the buildings they live and work in every day.
Darren Bradley was born on Oahu, and spent his early years surrounded by the city’s mix of architectural styles. But as his eye for design as well as photography evolved, and as he eventually traveled and lived beyond our shores, it was modern architecture that became his obsession.
“I came to photography through my passion for modern architecture,” Bradley writes. “I’m probably just a frustrated architect, really.”
The modern style — inspired by European design and fueled by the widespread adoption of iron, steel, and reinforced concrete construction — took root in the mid-20th century, and landed in Hawaii just in time for the post-war building boom. The distinctive Hawaii State Capitol building is said to be the first such government building to embody modern architecture, but the movement can be found everywhere, from downtown to Manoa, from the IBM Building to the Kahala Hilton.
“I love to be around modern architecture. To me, it’s the most interesting medium for artistic expression in that it must nearly always serve a function, solve a specific problem, and speak to the context of its environment.”
While Bradley works as the Director of Strategy and Planning for international security and defense firm BAE Systems, he has turned his hobby into a solid second profession. Now based in San Diego, he does commission work for architects, builders, and developers, and his photos have been featured in numerous journals, books, and magazines. Bradley has also won several awards, including the 2013 Paris Prix de la Photographie (in the advertising and architecture category).
He has documented modern architecture from California to Indiana, from Australia to Italy, and many points between. But Honolulu has a special place in Bradley’s heart.
“With its legacy of beautiful modernist architecture, Honolulu has the potential to surpass both Palm Springs and Miami Beach as a mecca for architectural tourism,” he says. And to make his case, he is returning to Hawaii and giving two separate presentations. Both are hosted by the Historic Hawaii Foundation, Docomomo Hawaii, and Interisland Terminal.
On Thursday, Dec. 3, Bradley will be featured in a sold-out talk at Kakaako Agora. Then on Saturday night, he will be the special guest presenter at the Docomomo Hawaii annual party, hosted at a private residence and offering “a more intimate view into Bradley’s art and sources of inspiration.”
While steel and concrete are strong, the materials are no match for the steady march of progress. The historic IBM Building, designed by architect Vladimir Ossipoff in 1962, was once in danger of being demolished. Fortunately, it got a $24 million renovation instead. (Last week, it was lit up in the colors of the French flag in solidarity with Paris.)
“In the years following World War II and with the rise of the jet age and America’s obsession with all things tiki, Honolulu was transformed from a sleepy town into a booming tourist mecca,” the foundation notes. “The legacy of that mid-century modern paradise lives on today, but is now facing challenges of crumbling and fading.”
Bradley has a collection of over 160 photos in a “Honolulu Modern” gallery on Flickr. You can also check out his Modernist Architecture blog, follow him at @modarchitecture on Instagram, and at @chimaybleuesd on Twitter,