Shaped By Nature: A Look at Ae‘o’s Architecture

Shaped By Nature: A Look at Ae‘o’s Architecture

As an architecture firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) has built themselves an impressive reputation for their ability to consistently produce elegant and environmentally sensitive buildings.

While they’ve been in business for more than five decades and have produced leagues of legendary designs, Ae’o, a forthcoming residential development in Ward Village, is going to be particularly mesmerizing.

Aeo, one of the most sought-after residential towers in Honolulu, will feature a stunning design that will also make it an architectural marvel in the city. Of its many unique features, the building hosts a series of wings that extend outward from the structure itself on the residential floors, offering each home a vantage point to take in the jaw-dropping vistas that surround Ae’o.

As part of their design process, BCJ takes special care to study the history and environment of the surrounding land and culture. “We walk the land to feel its tilt and warp, its geologic history, and evidence of human touch,” says BCJ. “We consider the nature of light, the prevailing wind, the consequences of rain and snow – a place’s attitude and spirit. We look for the flow of people in urban places: how they gather, what draws them to places of learning, of transactions of governance, and to great institutions.”

“It’s been a truly amazing experience working with BCJ,” said Howard Hughes’ Michael Yee, who oversees the development of Ae’o. “I’ve been really impressed with the BCJ’s creative thought process in shaping Ae’o’s design to what it is today.”

Stilt bird

True to form, BCJ drew tremendous inspiration for Ae’o by studying the surrounding environment. As a means to pay homage to the prevailing trades that keeps the islands cool, the lower levels of Ae’o (the building is named after the Hawaiian stilt bird that once inhabited the area) will feature a flowing, perforated architectural screen, linking the tower to the street and a flagship Whole Foods Market. With its sweeping lines, the screen draws its inspiration from the trade wind patterns that dominate the island’s atmosphere. Around many of the screen’s bends, you’ll find planted edges, which will help create a gathering place and reinforce the ideas of flow that define the building.

“It was by no means easy to do, but BCJ was able to pay homage to our trade winds in the podium façade. Through that process, they turned an uninspiring parking structure into a thought-provoking art piece,” added Yee.

Through all of their work, whether it be a residence, a university building, a governmental structure, or a commercial project, BCJ ensures that their finished product ties in neatly with its physical surrounding. For the iconic Apple storefront they created in New York City’s Fifth Avenue, the firm was able to design—with the help of Steve Jobs—a flagship 32-foot glass cube that leads the customer to a retail space underground. Since being unveiled in 2006, the Cube, as it’s come to be known, has become one of the most photographed buildings in New York City. With its transparent design, it’s even drawn comparisons to I.M. Pei’s worldly renowned Louvre Pyramid in Paris. And in 2010, founding partner Peter Bohlin, received and AIA Gold Medal, the highest honor given by the American Institute of Architects to an individual.

From its outset in the 1965, energy efficiency and environmental sensitivity have been integral in the firm’s design culture. “We continue to innovate; combining advanced building systems to harvest a site’s distinct climate and place to make the most of sun for light and heat, wind for ventilation, and the land for insulation,” says BCJ. “We view sustainable design as the right thing to do ethically, but also as an opportunity to make a richer, more powerful architecture.”