Green Block Honolulu: Reimagining one of the world’s most iconic destinations

April 20, 2021

In celebration of Earth Day and World Landscape Architecture Month, WATG, the world’s leading global destination and hospitality design firm, has debuted Green Block Honolulu – its third vision alongside London and New York City. This innovative planning and landscape architecture solution responds to the global community’s call to ‘restore our earth’ and demonstrates how one of the world’s most recognized and beloved urban avenues can be transformed to create a lush, eco-friendly space for tourists and kamaʻaina alike.

During the pandemic, WATG’s Honolulu team contemplated Hawaiʻi’s future, thinking about ways to address pressing needs like climate change, public health and the future of tourism. As Hawaiʻi explores and embarks upon balanced and regenerative tourism, Green Block is one solution that holds great promise due to the system’s modularity and flexibility. Equally adaptable for community planning, its components can be custom-designed for any location or distance, and can be utilized as a temporary or permanent installation.

Kalakaua Avenue is one of the most economically prosperous yet environmentally vulnerable streets in America and has served as the main entryway into Waikiki since the 1800s. With sweeping views alongside world-famous Waikiki beach, the street showcases a unique fusion of architecture styles – including the WATG-designed Royal Hawaiian, Sheraton Waikiki, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach and Spa, and ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach.

“Many important discussions are happening around what the future can look like and the relationship between health, wellbeing and the environment,” said David D. Moore, President + CEO of WATG. “Bringing Green Block to the islands, where WATG first pioneered hospitality design, pays homage to our firm’s origin, as well as our enduring commitment to sustainability and our Hawaiʻi ʻohana. Green Block shares a tangible vision of ‘what’s possible’ for the future of destination design and sparks a conversation as we rethink how we live.”

Kalakaua Avenue before, taken by Tommy Shih

Originally conceived by John Goldwyn, Director of Planning and Landscape at WATG London, Green Block was first proposed for the United Kingdom as part of the capital’s National Park City initiative in 2017 and then New York City in response to the pandemic in 2020. Recognizing its local suitability for greening Hawaiʻi hardscapes, Michael Brown, Senior Planner and Landscape Architect at WATG Honolulu, led the latest initiative in collaboration with Goldwyn.

“This is an inflection point for our state and the global tourism industry at large,” explained Brown. “Honolulu’s design focuses on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki – universally recognizable as an iconic symbol of hospitality. The concept reimagines this developed space as a lush urban oasis, prioritizing the ʻāina at the center of the resort experience in keeping with Oʻahu’s mission to build a more resilient island community.”

As it did with previous renditions, concepts like Green Block Honolulu promise to bring limitless value to Hawaiʻi and its urban areas – serving as a living, breathing solution to air filtration; reducing car noise, impact and pollution; and increasing green corridors for urban dwellers and visitors to interact with nature. The solution encourages cycling and walking, replacing paved paths with lush native greenery; and enhances curb appeal for restaurants and retail – providing untapped commercial opportunities for increased foot traffic and outdoor dining and shopping.

On a global level, the goal of Green Block is to facilitate and encourage further discussions around sustainable living, and how that can be incrementally and practically achieved in urban areas. This project reinforces WATG’s founding principles: designing resilient destinations and spaces where people thrive, using sustainable and resilient materials and techniques, championing and preserving the environments and communities that we touch, and delivering exceptional design solutions.

WATG’s global Master Planning and Landscape Architecture team, with offices in Honolulu, California, Singapore, Shanghai and London, welcomes comments and opportunities to share details about the project and engage the community in further discussion about the possible applications for Green Block.

Kalakaua Avenue after

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