G70 (architecture), Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001), Honolulu, Hawaii.

Francis S. Oda

B.Arch. '64

G70 (architecture), Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001), Honolulu, Hawaii.

Expressions of Culture

By Maiko Sein, B.Arch. '23

Born and raised in Hawaii, Francis S. Oda (B.Arch. '64) made his first trip to the mainland U.S. in 1959 — the same year that Hawaii became the 50th state — to study architecture at Cornell AAP. At the time, no one in his family had ever visited the contiguous U.S., and jetliner travel wasn't available. It took Oda five days just to reach the Cornell campus.

In comparison to Hawaii, New York felt like a different country to Oda. He had to adjust to the culture, the way people spoke, and the personalities of the people, among other differences. "New York culture was a shock to the system," he said. The cold and snow of winter provided the toughest challenge for him, as he seemed to have a cold during the entire season. Oda went the whole academic year without returning to Hawaii or seeing his family and friends. 

Manele Terrace

G70 (architecture), Four Seasons Resort Lāna´i at Mānele Bay (1991), view of terrace, Lāna´i City, Hawaii.

At Cornell, Oda took courses in painting, poetry, and sculpture. As he learned the fundamentals of architecture, he initially struggled to understand architecture on a creative level until it clicked during a project in visiting professor Neave Brown's class. "He was the one who kind of unlocked the understanding of architecture for me," Oda said. "[Architecture is] about space, how people live in space, and how life moves in space through culture" 

After graduation, Oda moved to California, where he completed an internship and then cofounded the firm Quinn & Oda with Patrick Quinn, who taught at University of California–Berkeley's College of Environmental Design and later chaired the architecture school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The pair won the National AIA Honor Award. They ran their practice from 1967 to 1971, focusing on religious architecture, when both men relocated to take new roles in academia. Oda returned to Hawaii with his wife and became an associate professor at the University of Hawai´i School of Architecture and university architect. 

He returned to professional practice two years later and became a copartner of the Hawaii-based firm Group 70 (G70), whose mission is to design responsibly for "natural, cultural, and human environments." He entered as president, managing partner, and CEO.

An older Hawaiian man talks with two other men in an office setting.

Francis Oda is active in G70+, an affiliate of G70, as its chair and principal designer. photo / provided

At the time, G70 was a new firm that only did programming and design. But as it took on more projects, the team realized it needed to expand its capabilities and become a full-service firm. As its first big project, the firm landed a 720-room, oceanfront Marriott hotel in Maui, the first Marriott Resort Hotel in the world. This project spurred G70's international practice, and since then, the firm has completed projects spanning the Pacific Ocean, including in Japan and Indonesia.

As he works in different countries, Oda approaches new projects through the lens of the local culture. He mandated that G70's designs include cultural references, and repurposed the Hawaiian word Kama´āina, meaning "child of the land," to describe this style of architectural design. "We work with local people, and we try to identify those things that are very meaningful culturally, and how they can be incorporated into an expression of modern place with stamps of culture that are not universal," Oda said.

In the early 1990s, Oda worked on G70's designs for the Four Seasons Resort Lāna´i at Mānele Bay, which became the first major expression of Kama´āina architecture in Hawaii. Echoing the history of the land, the project used materials and designs that referenced the traditional style of the Hawaiian Royal Family. Pineapple plants from when the island was a pineapple farm still surround the resort. The hotel overlooks Hulopoe Bay, a marine preserve rich with marine life. Condé Nast Traveler named the Four Seasons Resort Lāna´i on its 2020 Gold List of best hotels and resorts in the world.

Oda's Kama´āina architectural style reinforces culture and coexistence with the natural environment. This consideration for environment naturally led Oda to develop the concept of sustainable smart design that integrates how people live their lives. He introduced the first concepts of sustainable smart city building to Hawaii in 2007, through G70's design plan for the city of Kapolei, sometimes called the "second city of O´ahu" (where Honolulu is located). He designed Kapolei through the lens of pedestrians, rather than vehicle drivers, including walkable, tree-lined streets and a 73-acre European-style park. 

Kapolei Civic Center Rendering

G70 (planning), City of Kapolei plan (2007), rendering of Wai Aniani Way, Kapolei, Hawaii. 

Oda's contributions to the field of architecture include not only Kama´āina architecture and smart city building, but also the first and only doctor of architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. He cofounded the D.Arch. at the University of Hawai´i at Mānoa as a professional degree program and earned the doctorate himself in 2000. "My hope is that it will be the terminal degree for a great majority of architects," he said. 

Oda has received more than 55 local, national, and international awards for which he was principal designer, including the American Institute of Architects Honolulu Chapter's Humanitarian Award in 2000 and Mayor's Choice Award in 2007 and 2010. In his personal time, he serves as a senior pastor and board chair of New Life Church Honolulu and as the global chair of Transform Our World.

As of 2022, Oda is still active in G70+, an affiliate of G70, as its chair and principal designer. Most recently, he led G70+'s design for a hotel under development in Bora Bora. The site design draws from Polynesian culture to celebrate and inform guests of the important traditions of voyaging and place-making in Tahitian culture. 

Throughout his 50-year career, Oda has approached architecture in ways that address intractable problems of society. With Kama´āina architecture and smart design, he defined and disseminated practices for working within the cultural landscape of a place, honoring both social values and the natural environment. "We have the status to do this as architects," he said. "We also have the calling to do so."

Projects


Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001)

A rocky area with green grass and trees.

G70 (architecture and master planning), view of nature preserve, 8,100 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

View of nature preserve

Haunama Bay Center

G70 (architecture and planning), Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001), view of Hanauma Bay, 8,100 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

View of Hanauma Bay

Haunama Bay Center

G70 (architecture and planning), Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001), interior view, 8,100 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Interior view

Haunama Bay Center

G70 (architecture and planning), Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001), exterior view, 8,100 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Exterior view

Haunama Bay Center

G70 (architecture and planning), Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center (2001), educational area, 8,100 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Educational area


Indonesia Innovation City Sentul Master Plan (2020)

IICS

G70 (planning), Conceptual master plan aerial view, 400 hectacres, Sentul City, Indonesia.

Conceptual master plan aerial view

IICS

G70 (planning), Conceptual master plan aerial view, 400 hectacres, Sentul City, Indonesia.

Aerial view

IICS

G70 (planning), Conceptual master plan exterior view of buildings, 400 hectacres, Sentul City, Indonesia.

Exterior view of buildings

IICS

G70 (planning), Conceptual master plan exterior view of buildings, 400 hectacres, Sentul City, Indonesia.

Exterior view of buildings

IICS River

G70 (planning), Conceptual master plan exterior view of buildings, 400 hectacres, Sentul City, Indonesia.

Exterior view of buildings


´Iolani School Sullivan Center for Leadership & Innovation (2013)

Sullivan Center Class

G70 (architecture and interior design), interior view, 43,800 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Interior view

Sullivan Center Day

G70 (architecture and interior design), exterior view during daytime, 43,800 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Exterior view during daytime

Sullivan Center Night

G70 (architecture and interior design), exterior view at night, 43,800 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Exterior view at night

Sullivan Center Aerial

G70 (architecture and interior design), aerial view, 43,800 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Aerial view

Sullivan Center Roof

G70 (architecture and interior design), exterior view of roof, 43,800 square feet, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Exterior view of roof


City of Kapolei Plan (2007)

Kapolei Arcade Rendering

G70 (planning), rendering of arcade, Kapolei, Hawaii.

Rendering of arcade

Kapolei Civic Center Rendering

G70 (planning), rendering of Civic Center, Kapolei, Hawaii.

Rendering of Civic Center

Kapolei MP1 Aerial

G70 (planning), master plan aerial view, Kapolei, Hawaii.

Master plan aerial view

Kapolei Wai Aniani Way Rendering

G70 (planning), rendering of Wai Aniani Way, Kapolei, Hawaii.

Rendering of Wai Aniani Way

Kapolei

G70 (planning), view of Kapolei, Kapolei, Hawaii.

View of Kapolei


Four Seasons Resort Lāna´i at Mānele Bay (1991)

Manele Courtyard

G70 (architecture), view of courtyard, Lāna´i City, Hawaii.

View of courtyard

Manele Exterior

G70 (architecture), exterior view, Lāna´i City, Hawaii.

Exterior view

Manele Guestroom Lanai

G70 (architecture), guestroom, Lāna´i City, Hawaii.

Guestroom

Manele Model

G70 (architecture), model, Lāna´i City, Hawaii.

Model

Manele Terrace

G70 (architecture), exterior view of terrace, Lāna´i City, Hawaii.

Exterior view of terrace


New Hotel in Bora Bora (2022–ongoing)

An illustrated site plan for a seaside hotel.

G70, site plan, Bora Bora. The site plan contains three areas called "pito," a concept related to the Polynesian sense of place. "Pito Po'o" corresponds to the head and represents ancestral, spiritual, and traditional knowledge. "Pito Na'au" corresponds to the navel, which is the source of life, energy, and vitality. "Pito Mai" corresponds to the reproductive organs, representing reproduction and future generations.

Site plan

Aerial view over dense greenery along the coast and a brilliant blue body of water, toward a distant mountain.

G70, view toward Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora. The site design celebrates voyaging, a core component of the Polynesian culture. 

View toward Mount Otemanu

Rendering of two people standing on a balcony overlooking the ocean.

G70, view from balcony, Bora Bora. The design of the hotel is intended to inform guests of the important traditions of voyaging and place-making in Tahitian culture. It is also intended that local residents and employees feel a sense of pride and ownership in the design honoring the culture and the place.

View from balcony

A vivid blue sky and fluffy white clouds serve as the backdrop for a large resort pool.

G70, view of pool, Bora Bora. The pool is located between the "Pito Na'au" and the "Pito Mai," which is associated with the sea.

View of pool

Rendering of a restaurant inspired by a traditional fale va'a, a triangular shaped hut, located on a pier.

G70, Fale Va'a seafood restaurant, Bora Bora. The seafood restaurant is located at the Pito Mai, which is associated with the sea. Its structure takes the form of the traditional fale va'a (inset), which is a canoe house. The hotel's fale va’a will employ special glass to give the structure a traditional and modern expression.

Fale Va'a seafood restaurant

Rendering of a building surrounded by lush greenery in front of a wide, multistory hotel.

G70, Navigation restaurant, Bora Bora. The Navigation restaurant building (Pito Po’o) has a facade that reflects the design of a voyaging "stick chart" (inset) that ancient navigators used in traversing the sea. 

Navigation restaurant

Rendering of an open-air space to be used for a dive school.

G70, dive school interior, Bora Bora.

Dive school interior


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