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HandWiki. IBM Building (Honolulu). Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 19 April 2024).
HandWiki. IBM Building (Honolulu). Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 19, 2024.
HandWiki. "IBM Building (Honolulu)" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 19, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 14). IBM Building (Honolulu). In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "IBM Building (Honolulu)." Encyclopedia. Web. 14 November, 2022.
IBM Building (Honolulu)

The IBM Building is an office building in Honolulu located at 1240 Ala Moana Boulevard. Designed by Vladimir Ossipoff, the building opened in 1962 as the Honolulu headquarters for IBM. It is presently owned by Howard Hughes Corporation, serving as a sales center for their surrounding Ward Village development. Construction of the IBM Building cost $1,500,000 (equivalent to $12,678,218 in 2019). The building was dedicated on October 10, 1962, in a ceremony attended by officials including then-Governor of Hawaii William F. Quinn. The roughly cube-shaped structure is distinguished by the honeycomb structure of its concrete brise soleil, inspired by Polynesian culture and also intended to resemble the punched cards used in the computer industry at the time of its construction. The building was slated for demolition by then-owner GGP Inc. as part of a 2008 redevelopment plan, but public backlash led to its preservation after the planned development area was purchased by Howard Hughes Corporation, which expressed an intent to maintain the IBM Building's name and general appearance. The development company instead renovated the building to use as an information and sales center for their surrounding Ward Village development.

office building honolulu hawaii

1. History

1.1. Design & Construction

The IBM Building was designed by architect Vladimir Ossipoff, and built by contractor Hawaiian Dredging & Construction Company for Victoria Ward Limited.[1] It opened in 1962 as the Honolulu headquarters for IBM.[2] It is located at 1240 Ala Moana Boulevard.[3] According to Engineering News-Record, its construction cost $1,500,000 (equivalent to $12,678,218 in 2019); it was built as part of IBM's $18,000,000 (equivalent to $152,138,614 in 2019) effort to build imaginative offices around the world.[3]

The building was dedicated on October 10, 1962, in a ceremony attended by various corporate and military officials as well as members of the public. Then-Governor of Hawaii William F. Quinn attended and spoke at the event, characterizing the building as "a gratifying demonstration of one company's success in years past and faith in the future of the mid-Pacific area".[4] Also attending were Rev. Abraham Akaka and the president of IBM's Federal Systems Division.[5]

While the IBM Building's appearance was initially criticized by Hawaii residents for its perceived austerity and for not fitting into the aesthetic of Hawaii,[2] it became more popular over time.[6] Its simple design gained various accolades in the architectural community, including a 1964 honorable mention from the Hawaii chapter of the American Institute of Architects.[2] Its landscaping was recognized with the 1964 Beautification Award from the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce.[3]

1.2. Planned Demolition

In 2008, a redevelopment plan by then-owner GGP Inc. (also the owner of 60 acres or 24 hectares surrounding the building[7]) slated it for demolition,[3] but public backlash led to its preservation instead.[6] Howard Hughes Corporation purchased the area being redeveloped from GGP in 2010. In October 2011, Howard Hughes announced a revised master plan for the area; by February 2012, the corporation expressed an intent to maintain the IBM Building's name and general appearance.[8]

1.3. Renovation

A renovation was designed by Woods Bagot and Ferraro Choi to make the building a sales center for Howard Hughes Corporation,[6] as part of the development company's master plan for the surrounding Ward Village development.[2] The building officially reopened on January 25, 2014, after contractors Jay Kadowaki Inc. and Albert C. Kobayashi Inc. executed the renovation.[9] The construction cost $24,000,000,[1] and won the Display category at INSIDE Festival in 2015.[6]

Howard Hughes built model units in the building for several of their nearby condominiums, and also utilized it as office space; it occupied the second, third, sixth and seventh floors while maintaining an information center on the ground floor.[10] The information center was created by completely redesigning the ground floor, and replacing walls with windows on all four sides. Solomon Enos was commissioned to paint a mural in the space. The parking lot was replaced with a courtyard for outdoor gatherings, including a water feature; a cube-like structure was added to one side of the building and the rooftop lanai was extended.[1] These changes were criticized by Ossipoff's former partner Sid Snyder as "unsympathetic to the architecture of the building", and also critiqued by the architect's daughter Valerie Ossipoff.[1]

1.4. Post-Renovation

In 2018, Howard Hughes Corporation announced plans to move remote workers into the building, and notified tenants on the fourth floor that they would be taking it over when leases expired at the end of that year. These tenants included IBM: the floor housed its last remaining offices in the building.[10] In 2019, IBM shut down its last remaining offices in the building, and the sign reading "IBM" was removed from the roof.[2] Honolulu Civil Beat had previously observed that it was unclear whether "IBM Building" would remain the official name of the building once it was no longer occupied by IBM; a Howard Hughes executive declined to comment.[10]

2. Architecture

Front view of the IBM Building.
IBM punched card from the early 1970s.

The six-story IBM Building, which also has rooftop space referred to as a seventh floor,[9] is roughly a cube. It has a concrete brise soleil with a distinctive honeycomb structure. This facade, which was assembled from 1,360 precast pieces of concrete, was inspired by Polynesian culture and also intended to resemble the punched cards which were used in the computer industry at the time of the building's construction. The angles of the brise soleil were intended to prevent water from pooling and discourage pigeon nesting without blocking the view from within the offices.[2] Ossipoff himself described the grille as a key aspect of the building:[11]

Not only does the systematic, rather repetitious pattern of the concrete grille express the computer-world character of the IBM Corp., but also gives it a sense of belonging in the sun. The deep shadows of the grillwork become as significant a part of the architecture as any part of the structure itself.

The building itself is set back from the road, and Ossipoff used berms to make the parking lot less visible.[3] Stairways, elevators, and utilities are clustered at the building's center to avoid obstructing the office space.[11]

3. Significance

The IBM Building has been recognized as a key example of the tropical modernism architectural style that was popular at the time of its construction. Vladimir Ossipoff was a key figure in the style's development.[2] In 2008, architect and Yale University Director of Exhibitions Dean Sakamoto described the building as a Honolulu landmark and a marker of the passing of time, comparing it to Aloha Tower and the Hawaii Convention Center.[3] Jeff Nishi, another architect, characterized it as an example of Ossipoff's versatility as an architect.[3]


  1. Wu, Nina (January 26, 2014). "Iconic Design: Architect Vladimir Ossipoff's IBM Building has been saved from demolition to play a critical role in Ward Village". Honolulu Star-Advertiser: pp. F1, F10. 
  2. MacIntyre, Ken (September 11, 2019). "A Look into Hawaii's Iconic IBM Building" (in en-US). 
  3. Wu, Nina (March 2, 2008). "IBM Building's fate draws preservationists". Honolulu Star-Bulletin: pp. D6. 
  4. "IBM Building Is Dedicated". The Honolulu Advertiser: pp. B4. October 11, 1962. 
  5. "IBM Slates Dedication Of Building". The Honolulu Advertiser: pp. B4. October 10, 1962. 
  6. Hobson, Benedict (February 11, 2016). "Video: Ward Village Information Center by Woods Bagot" (in en). 
  7. Wu, Nina (March 2, 2008). "IBM Building: Iconic Honolulu landmark or doomed for demolition?". Honolulu Star-Bulletin: pp. D1, D6. 
  8. Gomes, Andrew (February 1, 2013). "IBM Building, once fated for razing, to be remodeled". Honolulu Star-Advertiser: pp. B1, B3. 
  9. Shimogawa, Duane (January 27, 2014). "Howard Hughes Corp. unveils Honolulu’s redeveloped IBM Building: Slideshow". 
  10. Yerton, Stewart (October 10, 2018). "Has Kakaako Gotten Too Fancy Even For IBM?" (in en). 
  11. Ossipoff, Vladimir (February 6, 1966). "Building Designed for the Sun". The Honolulu Advertiser: pp. A10. 
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