The American Institute of Architects Hawaii State Council, in partnership with the Hawaii Architectural Foundation, has presented legendary local architect John M. Hara, FAIA, with its 2017 Medal of Honor. The presentation on Oct.  21, 2017, marks just the eighth time it has been awarded in its nearly 20-year history.  

Since 1998, the AIA Hawaii State Council has presented the Medal of Honor to island architects who have significantly advanced their profession and inspired fellow practitioners through their leadership. Past recipients are the following AIA fellows: Donald Goo, 2015; Kenneth F. Brown, 2004; Ernest Hara, 2002; Elmer Botsai, 2002; Frank Haines, 2000; Charles R. Sutton, 1999; and Vladimir Ossipoff, 1998. 

Many of Hara’s designs are well-known to island residents, including the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Clare Boothe Luce Wing and Luce Pavilion; University of Hawaii - West Oahu Campus; Maui Arts & Cultural Center; Punahou School’s Case Middle School, Mamiya Science Learning Center, Wo International Center and physical education facilities; Mid-Pacific Institute’s Hartley Math, Science and Technology Complex; Kamehameha Schools’ Kunuiakea Athletic Complex; and the John A. Burns Hall, East-West Center. 

Hara’s lesser known but equally relevant residential projects embody the elements of what is considered by many to be Hawaiian modern residential architecture. Notable hallmarks to all of Hara’s work include the penetration of light into interior spaces, the importance of natural ventilation and the attention to the relationship of buildings to outdoor spaces.  

Hara has said the successful design of houses, and by extension all architecture, requires the architect to be “highly responsible and trustful with the client, recognizing how personal the environment is which must be created.” This approach and the quality of the work he produced led to many commissions for houses, including renovating iconic works of recognized master architects. 

Congratulations to John M. Hara, FAIA, on winning the 2017 Medal of Honor. His ability as a designer has long distinguished him in Hawaii’s architectural community. Combining that ability with his life-long accomplishments integrating art and architecture makes him unique in Hawaii’s architectural history.  

To purchase a copy of the John M. Hara, FAIA 2017 Medal of Honor Commemorative Book, contact the Center for Architecture at 628-7243 or

Abigail Spencer Mundell
Executive Vice President, AIA Honolulu

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