Monday, March 22, 2010

Historic Hawaii Foundation's Testimony on SRC160: Relating to the replacement of the Hawaii State Capitol's reflecting ponds


To: Sen. Clayton Hee, Chair
Sen. Jill N. Tokuda, Vice Chair
Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs

From: Kiersten Faulkner
Executive Director, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation
Committee Date: Monday, March 22 2010
3:15 p.m. Conference Room 229

Subject: SCR160, Requesting Replacement of the State Capitol’s Reflecting Ponds

On behalf of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF), I am writing in opposition to SCR 160, which requests the Department of Land and Natural Resources to approve and the Department of Accounting and General Services to plan and implement a proposal to replace the reflecting ponds surrounding the State Capitol with a garden of native plants.

The Hawai‘i State Capitol is designated on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Its architectural significance derives in part from the symbolism of the building features, which reflects the cultural, social and natural histories of Hawai‘i. As the only island state in the nation, Hawaii’s geography is unique. The design of the State Capitol reflects that geography: the reflecting ponds stand for the Pacific Ocean; the two chambers show the strength of the volcanic origins of the islands; the columns symbolize palm trees; and the rotunda is open to the sky.

Any proposal to rehabilitate or restore the structure should first begin with an understanding of the character-defining features that contribute to its historic significance, which certainly includes the reflecting pools. Recommendations to repair, maintain or retrofit the building need to take care to avoid adverse effects on those features. The role of the State Historic Preservation Division is to ensure that the proper care is taken during planning and design, as well as implementation of the approved plan. SHPD’s review of projects in based on preservation standards adopted by the Secretary of the Interior. The standards for rehabilitation and preservation of historic sites provide protection for the historic resources and should not be discarded lightly.

HHF recommends that the resolution be changed to direct SHPD and DAGS to develop a plan for the appropriate repair and maintenance of the waterproof membrane and control of algae. This would address the legislature’s concern for the maintenance and costs, protect the historic integrity of the Capitol, and support the professional standards used by the preservation division.