Notes on St Augustine by the Sea, Honolulu.

By Michelle Railey

I wanted to make a more polished text about the striking architecture of St Augustine By The Sea church in Honolulu on Waikiki Beach. Time and resources being sadly strained things, I’m going to present to you: photos, notes, and thoughts. If you have any scholarly works or otherwise interesting things to add about this remarkable building, Hawaiian architecture, or the architect, please leave links in the comments. Someone someday is going to write something brilliant about this building. It’s just not gonna be me.

The Architect:

The architect for this building was George Wheeler McLaughlin. He was born in 1909 in Minnesota and died in Nevada in 1993. [1] Notably, he was a consultant for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. By 1957, he had relocated to Hawaii, where he worked on ecclesiastical, residential, and public buildings as both a designer and a developer. In 1984, he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 1968, he published a book: “An Architect’s Sketch Book of South Seas Living.” (See Amazon)

St. Augustine by the Sea:

1962: The church was finished and blessed (August).

The Style: Routinely called ”Mid-Century Modern” with the pointed arches/triangles referred to as embodying praying hands.

The International Style and Mid-Century Modernism are definitely invoked by the clean lines and the materials/colors of the exterior (cement; finished as grey, white, or beige).

The pointed arches (very much a gothic style arch) have been said to represent praying hands. But a case could equally be made for:

The Polynesian/Hawaiian A-Frame. When made in natural Hawaiian materials, it is called Hale Wa’a. The A-Frame mimics the underside of native canoes, the mountains (mauna or makai), the traditional shape of temples and huts, the elongated original surfboards. Its shape can still be seen in some of the remaining or reconstructed native Hawaiian buildings (check out the sharp A rooflines of temples, especially); and one can see the homage to the shape and vernacular in Disney’s Aulani Resort, which worked to recreate and incorporate indigenous forms and styles in the architecture.

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Interior, Disney’s Aulani. Exterior, Disney’s Aulani. Exterior: St Augustine By The Sea. Illustration: Section View of Hale Noa traditional Hawaiian architecture style.

Randomly worth mentioning:

There is a stone owl on one of the peaks (not pictured).

The stained glass inside is probably worth a post of its own.

The reflection of the modern skyscrapers in the windows of the old-school shaped (but still modern) arches is a visual metaphor begging to be explored.

The view across the street from the church is this:


[1] Or he might have died in New York

Partial List of Sources:

Draft Environmental Assessment, ”St Augustine-By-The-Sea” Master Plan, August 2011 (311 pages)

“Hawaiian Culture Told in Art and Architecture at Disney Aulani,” Surf and Sunshine

”Indigenous Hawaiian Architecture”

St. Augustine Church By The Sea Parish

Wikitree. “George Wheeler McLaughlin

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