Vladimir Ossipoff

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The Liljestrand House from the makai (lower) elevation
The Liljestrand House – makai (towards the ocean) elevation

Vladimir ‘Val’ Nicholas Ossipoff (Russian: Владимир Николаевич Осипов; November 25, 1907 – October 1, 1998) was an American architect best known for his works in the state of Hawai'i.[1]


Early life and schooling[edit]

Ossipoff was born November 25, 1907, in Vladivostok, a part of the Russian Empire.[2] Because his father, Nicholas Ossipoff, who was an officer with the Imperial Russian Army under Czar Nicholas II, became a military attaché in the Russian embassy in Japan, his family moved in 1909 to Tokyo where Val Ossipoff grew up.[2][3] Before he was 10, he traveled between Russia and Japan four or five times with his family and was in Petrograd during the Revolution of 1917.[2][4] Prior to moving to the United States in 1923, he attended Yokohama's St. Joseph's College[5][6] and the Tokyo Foreign School, which are international schools for children, and was fluent in Russian, Japanese, and English.[2][4] His family was at their summer home near Mt. Fuji when the Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 occurred.[2] Immediately after the Great Tokyo Earthquake, he, his siblings, and his mother emigrated from Kobe to the United States by ship which passed through Yokohama and Honolulu along the way.[2][4][7] Prior to leaving for the United States, he visited the construction of Tokyo's Second Imperial Hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was greatly influenced by Wright's organic architectural style.[7] His father died tragically in Japan before he could rejoin his family in the United States.[2][4] After graduating from high school in Berkeley, California, in 1926 and from the University of California, Berkeley in 1931, he took two short jobs in California, one with a Los Angeles architect and the other with the San Francisco firm Crim, Reasing, and McGinnis while he did some moonlighting jobs with one of his professors.[2][3][4] While at Berkeley, he was trained in the First Bay Region Tradition of vernacular architecture influenced by the style of the Arts and Crafts movement.[8]

Early career and marriage[edit]

Later in 1931, he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, to visit his high school friend and college roommate, Douglas Slaten, who convinced him to look for work among the California trained architects in Honolulu.[2][3][4][9] Val later stated that Slaten said, "You don't have anything to lose. Why don't you come over."[2] Val said, in the early 1960s, that he moved to Honolulu to carry on a "War on Ugliness," a struggle to counter what he felt was poor architectural design and unrestricted development of Honolulu.[3][9] He found work with the architect Charles W. Dickey and assisted in Dickey's 1931 design for the Immigration Station at Honolulu Harbor which was constructed in 1934.[2][10] He left Dickey, briefly did some perspective works for Ray Morris who was the head of Lewers and Cooke's building department, and then worked as the head of Theo H. Davies & Co. Home Building Department beginning in May 1932 until the end of September 1935.[2][8] At the end of 1932, his first design for a home was for A. W. Manz in Kāhala where he also designed several other homes there in a Bishop Estate subdivision in a modest modified Monterey style because he felt that the climate in Honolulu is similar to the climate in the summer in Carmel, California, where it is "thoroughly enjoyable and outdoors".[8] During that time he married the former Raelynn Loughery from San Francisco on January 24, 1935.[2][8][a] In October 1935, Ossipoff joined his school friend Tommy Perkins at Stiehl before he returned to C. W. Dickey and assisted with the drawings for the Kula Sanatorium, designed the lights at the Waikiki Theatre's lobby and did the Hunnewell house, which was located at today's Kawainni Park, just Kokohead of 'Aina Haina on the beach.[2] In March 1936, he formed his own architectural firm in Honolulu, Vladimir Ossipoff, AIA, which later became Ossipoff and Associates.[2][4][8] The first house he designed with his own firm was for Cyril E. and Milme Pemberton on Makiki Heights, Honolulu.[2][8]

Awards and memberships[edit]

Ossipoff was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1956. He was awarded the first medal of honor of the AIA Hawaii chapter.[11] He was a member of The Pacific Club, for which he designed a new building in 1959.[8]

Later life[edit]

He died October 1, 1998, in Honolulu at the Kuakini Hospital at the age of 90.[3]


In 2007, the Honolulu Museum of Art organized the first museum retrospective of his work.[9][12] "Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff" was on view at the academy from November 29, 2007, to January 27, 2008. The show was planned to travel next to the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt, Germany (Summer 2008) and the Yale School of Architecture Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut (Fall 2008).

Ossipoff has been called “the master of Hawaii modern architecture,”[12] “the dean of residential architects in Hawaii,”[3] and “the premier postwar designer of kama'aina-style[13][14] residences in Honolulu,”[15] perhaps the most famous of which is the Liljestrand House built in 1952.[7] Of the dozens of homes and buildings he created, the IBM Building (1962) in the current Ward Village is Ossipoff's most recognized design.[16] Other well known buildings he designed in and around Honolulu include the Goodsill House (1952), the Pauling House (1957), Thurston Memorial Chapel for Punahou School (1966), Davies Memorial Chapel at Hawaii Preparatory Academy (1966), and many more on Oahu.[7] Others across the state of Hawaii include the terminals at the Kahului Airport on Maui and the Kona Airport on the Big Island.[7] From 1970 to 1978, he designed the open-air grand lānai style terminal at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.[7][9][10][16] The beaches of Lanikai in Kailua, and the flatlands of ʻĀina Haina and Kāhala along with the heights of Hawaii Loa and the Wai'alae Nui Ridge neighborhoods in Honolulu have many of his designed homes.[1]

"An architect has to be a bit of a sociologist, lawyer and psychologist. He has to know human nature."

— Vladimir Ossipoff, [3]

The Ossipoff Documents Restoration Project[edit]

A collection of sixty-six boxes of Vladimir Ossipoff's drawings and papers was bequeathed to Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. As of October 2013 there is a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo[17] for the preservation and presentation of this collection of architectural documents.[18]


  1. ^ Val and Rae Ossipoff have two children, Alexandra and Valerie.[2]


  1. ^ a b Nina Wu (February 24, 2006). "Ossipoff homes still stand as uniquely Hawaii". Pacific Business News. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved September 16, 2019. Ossipoff homes are known for their strong roof lines, deep overhangs, dark woods, native stone and built-in cabinets and fixtures. He eschewed air conditioning and always took advantage of natural ventilation through huge sliding doors and windows that would open entire walls to the outside.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Vladimir Nicholas Ossipoff". Oral Histories of 1930's Architects: Transcriptions of tapes of oral histories taken by members of the Hawaii Society/American Institute of Architects. Honolulu: Hawaii State Historic Preservation Office, Department of Land and Natural Resources. September 1982. pp. 121–7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ohira, Rod (October 2, 1998). "Vladimir Ossipoff, dean of Hawaii architects, dies". Star-Bulletin. Honolulu. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Hart, Graham (May 2015). "Tropical Modern Residential Architecture". ScholarSpace at University of Hawaii Manoa. pp. 30–42 Vladimir Ossipoff (1907–1998). Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  5. ^ Gilhooly, Rob (May 27, 2000). "Oldest international school's closure leaves many questions". The Japan Times. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  6. ^ "The World Within the City of Yokohama". St. Joseph International School Alumni Association. July 6, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Mottalini, Chris (November 21, 2016). "Inside Hawaii's modernist masterpieces: Architect Val Ossipoff was a pioneer on the islands, but his work isn't widely known on the mainland". Curbed. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Sakamoto, Dean; Britton, Karla; Murphy, Diana; Frampton, Kenneth (2007). Hawaiian Modern, The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff. Honolulu, HI: Honolulu Academy of Arts. ISBN 9780300121469. OCLC 881576722.
  9. ^ a b c d Curt Sanborn. "Outside In: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff". Hana Hou! V. 10 #5 October/November 2007. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Genocchio, Benjamin (September 26, 2008). "A Hawaiian Modernist, by Way of Russia". New York Times. Archived from the original on June 26, 2018. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Editorial (October 3, 1998). "Vladimir Ossipoff". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  12. ^ a b Honolulu Academy of Arts (November 29, 2007). "Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff".
  13. ^ "Hawaiian Architecture". Hawaii Home. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. The local architectural style is called kama'aina, or native born. Kama'aina is a style rich in beautiful simplicity and island tradition. True kama'aina architecture is generally open plan, keeping with the importance of multigenerational family living and the strength of the community spirit - and to capitalize on those gentle ocean breezes. Decoration is simple but beautiful, generally focused on the shapes, materials, and hues of nature.
  14. ^ A.A. Smyser (October 6, 1998). "The house that Vladimir Ossipoff built". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  15. ^ "The Honolulu 100: Vladimir Ossipoff (1907-1998)". Honolulu Magazine. November 2005. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Leong, Lavonne (November 1, 2007). "Val's Way: Honolulu gets the first look at an international tribute to the icon of postwar Hawaiian architecture". Honolulu Magazine. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  17. ^ "Ossipoff Documents Restoration Project". indiegogo.com. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
  18. ^ "The Ossipoff Documents Restoration Project - info". Facebook.com. Retrieved September 28, 2013.


  • Britton, Karla and Marc Treib, Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff, Yale University Press, 2015 ISBN 9780300214161
  • Haar, Francis, Artists of Hawaii: Volume Two, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1977, pp. 59–63

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