Ward Village Launches a Park and a Garden

Dec 19, 2018

Alexander Green and Symmetry Labs created Light Garden: a Thousand Year Bloom for the opening of Victoria Ward Park in Ward Village. It remains on view 6-9pm, through January 31, 2019.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Families from around O‘ahu have been checking out the new Victoria Ward Park in Ward Village, currently adorned with 25 thousand LEDS in a blend of art and technology entitled Light Garden:  a Thousand Year Bloom.  This marks the opening of Victoria Ward Park, and reflects a continuing effort by the Howard Hughes Corporation to use art to animate spaces.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.

Steve Cornwell, Chief marketing Officer for the Howard Hughes Corporation says, "We're making a place for people to have real experiences, and you have to ignite it. it doesn't happen by itself." For the opening, Honolulu crowds flocked to music performances by Kimie Miner, Paula Fuga and others.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

The Light Garden is free and open to the public 6pm to 9pm every night through January 31st.  

As the head of Symmetry Labs, Alexander Green straddles technology and art.  He says his realization was that technology and light would allow him to say new things with art.

Green:  I realized that technology was making it possible not just to do new utilitarian things, but also to do new expressive things.  And say new things with art.    I was really fascinated by that in a way I was never fascinated by like building web applications or something.

Green’s parents were art and classical music lovers, so he grew up around those influences, eventually going on to study math and physics with a minor in jazz.  Seeing a light show at a music concert started him thinking.

Green:  I loved the idea of controlling light in new ways to express beauty and meaning.  I realized it was the right time.

One recent piece, the tree of tenere, is a three story climbable tree, a hundred thousand LEDs illuminate every leaf.

Green says he is not adept at draftsmanship and other traditional ”artistic” skills.  He had a friend help him get his first ideas out of his head and onto paper.  The first light sculptures he imagined were three dimensional cubes, lit at the edges.  With the help of talented Bay Area engineers, this experiment became the groundbreaking “Sugar Cubes.”  In the six and a half years since, the field of interactive light and sound installations has grown.

Green:  I really like making work outside galleries for the public to view.  That can be shared by families, friends, and experienced outside the context of a museum or gallery.

A recent piece, the Tree of Tenere, debuted at Burning Man in 2017.  It’s a three story tall climbable tree, in which each leaf is illuminated.  Its 100,000 LEDs are programmed to react to audiences, and credits for the piece begin to approach cinematic length.

Green:  We’re integrating different pieces together, both physical pieces, and software and technology, and people who think different ways, to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts…coordination and communication are the hardest parts of making this kind of sculptural art.

Green:  I really want to impart a feeling of wonder and a feeling of curiosity about what is possible.  Hopefully also a feeling that nature and the universe is beyond comprehension, it’s so big and vast.

The Light Garden:  a 1,000 Year Bloom (the title refers to plants that do actually bloom only once every thousand years) is free and open to the public from 6 to 9pm nightly through January 31, 2019.

Todd Apo, Senior Vice President of Community Development at Ward Village says this installation is part of Howard Hughes Corporation’s commitment to art and culture in its developments.

“We’re again going to be a title sponsor for the Honolulu Biennial 2019.”  Plans for which space were not finalized when we spoke, but since, word is, that the current Famous Footwear location in Ward Center will be HB’s 2019 Hub.

Apo:  That continuation of art and culture, and Hawaiian culture elements, how to tie back to the history of this location, is something that we see as important.  We think those who are living here, those who visit here, see the values and are excited about it.  This, Victoria Ward Park, we call this sort of 1.0, it’s the starting point.

Apo:  As we develop around the park itself, we’ll continue to add features, water features, walkways, entertainment spaces, there’s still a lot of development in front of us.  We want to make sure this open, grassy, central area is an important part of that.

There’s supposed to be four acres of park here, right?

Apo:  Yes, so this park are will get bigger as we’re able to build the buildings next to it.  If you look ma kai, straight down to Kewalo Harbor, that grassed area will continue to grow as well, so this overall public space will continue to get bigger.

Apo says if you take Howard Hughes’ sixty acres and divide it into thirds, they are about through with  the first third.  That’s from the Diamond Head end to the entertainment center.  Now they’re starting to work on Koula, which is just Diamond Head of the park.  The ‘A‘ali‘i broke ground last month, it borders Victoria Ward Park on the ma uka side.

The final third of the Howard Hughes project, is west of Ward Avenue, waiting its turn for redevelopment.