How Apple's Architects Shielded a Trove of Art from the Harsh Hawaiian Sun

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In the main gallery, shades automatically deploy to protect works of art by, from left, Antony Caro (wire sculpture), Al Held, Peter Voulkos, Pichard Stankiewicz and David Smith. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits

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In the main gallery, shades automatically deploy to protect works of art by, from left, Antony Caro (wire sculpture), Al Held, Peter Voulkos, Pichard Stankiewicz and David Smith. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

In the main gallery, shades automatically deploy to protect works of art by, from left, Antony Caro (wire sculpture),... Read More

The space palpably invites the outdoors in, without compromising the contemplation of art. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

The space palpably invites the outdoors in, without compromising the contemplation of art. Photograph: Nicholas Alan... Read More

A tilting plate-glass window frames a view of Diamond Head. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

A tilting plate-glass window frames a view of Diamond Head. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits

Diamond Head's 760-foot volcanic cone rises behind this modern addition to a storied Honolulu estate. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

Diamond Head's 760-foot volcanic cone rises behind this modern addition to a storied Honolulu estate. Photograph:... Read More

A structural-glass bridge culminates in an enclosed balcony. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

A structural-glass bridge culminates in an enclosed balcony. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits

A cutaway in the wall follows the line of an exterior staircase. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

A cutaway in the wall follows the line of an exterior staircase. Photograph: Nicholas Alan Cope/Bloomberg Pursuits

The need to protect an ever-expanding collection of abstract expressionist masterworks from the harsh Hawaiian sun prompted the otherworldly addition to this Honolulu estate.

The owner, a business executive who splits his time between New York and his native Hawaii, loves living with art, Bloomberg Pursuits reports in its Summer 2014 issue. Unfortunately, his collection had outgrown the main house, a South Seas-style, hip-roof residence called Waipolu, which was built in 1929 by a much-admired local architect named Charles Dickey.

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“One of our choices was to make a building like the Dickey,” says the project’s architect, Peter Bohlin, of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson -- the firm behind Apple Inc.’s retail emporiums. “But we and the client concluded that would be a serious mistake. It should speak for itself.”

At the northeast corner of the steeply sloping site, a monumental, open-air staircase passes between two structures. One is an art gallery wrapped in oversize copper shingles suggestive of a samurai helmet and set against a rectangular lava-stone wall. The other is an ultramodern three-story structure wrapped in green-glass tubes that steps down the slope.

The limestone stair -- which has peekaboo ocean views like those afforded by the crooked little streets of an Amalfi Coast village -- pauses at landings that access a ground-floor gallery, a midlevel office and, on the top floor, loftlike guest quarters, with a terrace overlooking the Pacific. An exquisitely minimalist structural-glass bridge conjoining the two buildings is the only hint that Apple’s architects were here.

At 5,400 square feet (500 square meters), Bohlin’s additions assert themselves without overwhelming the main house, which sits cater-cornered from a series of wide turf steps and an expansive lawn.

The helmetlike shape of the main gallery emerged in response to the punishing tropical setting, Bohlin says, with a copper-clad “visor” overhanging a 16-foot (5-meter) glass wall with unobstructed ocean views. At the opposite end of the space, a tilting plate-glass window frames a view of Diamond Head, the 760-foot volcanic cone that looms over the eastern end of Waikiki Beach, on the southern shore of Oahu.

Sunshades that lower automatically and state-of-the-art climate controls further protect priceless paintings and sculptures collected during four decades. Yet the space palpably invites the outdoors in, without compromising the contemplation of art. Instead, the works themselves seem to change in response to the sun’s progression and the occasional passing cloud.

Just after sunset on a winter evening, the 68-year-old owner and I step outside and take a seat on the sea wall. With the ocean hissing behind us and the palm trees waving urgently in a rising northerly wind, we admire a wood relief by Jean Arp; a 1963 green- and red-acrylic painting by Helen Frankenthaler; and Passing Red, Peter Voulkos’s 1959 canvas of colliding cloudlike shapes in paint, sand and clay.

The owner says that when he first started collecting, he bought works that were merely pretty. Since then, he has refocused on art that captures the nation’s troubled post-World War II history.

In that sense, this stunning collection -- and the twin structures that enclose it -- have much in common with the archipelago’s own primordial beauty: sublime yet visibly conjured out of volcanic violence.

To contact the writer responsible for this story: James S. Russell at jamesrussell@earthlink.net, @JamesSRussellny

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ted Moncreiff at tmoncreiff@bloomberg.net

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