July 1 marked the much-anticipated re-opening of this iconic Hawai'i Island resort following massive damage from the 2011 tsunami. Owners Kennedy Wilson, a global real estate investment company respected for its commitment to responsible and sustainable development, partnered with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts to manage the property with environmental responsibility, care for the ʻāina and respect for the local culture.
The team tapped Hawai'i Island-raised architect Greg Warner of Walker Warner Architects and San Francisco-based interior design firm, NICOLEHOLLIS, to deliver on that commitment and to highlight the history of this land, once an ancient Hawaiian fishing Village on the Kona Coast’s pristine Kahuwai Bay. The architecture gives a subtle nod to the original resort that debuted here in the 1960s while introducing thoughtful changes to some legacy design elements no longer considered sustainable; for example, the new thatched roofing is made from recycled materials rather than traditional native palm fronds. Native plant and animal life was preserved by VITA Planning & Landscape Architecture, who championed the protection and maintenance of existing trees, plants, and naturally existing lava features.
“Early design efforts involved listening and learning – understanding the place and its regional and cultural significance – so that we could create something contemporary, yet referential to the original resort, crafted with care and respect for the land, which is in keeping with Hawaiian values,” Warner says.
Inheriting the aesthetic and spirit of the original Kona Village, Warner and team looked ahead in designing the new resort, which meant almost every existing physical element needed to be carefully deconstructed, removed and recycled if possible. During construction, project managers worked with Re-Use Hawai’i, a non-profit organization, to recycle and repurpose the old building materials. The team also used sustainably sourced timber and engineered wood, as well as low-emitting paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants in the building process. Expansive solar fields provide power using 100% renewable energy, while the property-operated reverse osmosis and wastewater treatment plants lessen the impact on the environment and community resources.
Further, illustrating Kona Village’s commitment to sustainability, several key buildings were designed according to LEED Gold Certification standards. Now the resort is pursuing TRUE (zero waste) and SITES (sustainable landscape) certifications and, if awarded, Kona Village will be the world’s first resort with all three distinctions.
Interior treasures include an art collection found throughout the resort’s public spaces, as well as in the 150 guest hale spread across several village-like crescents on the 81-acre property. Commissioned by NICOLEHOLLIS, more than 60 multimedia artists – the majority of whom are native Hawaiians or residents – visited the land during the property’s re-imagination for an immersion into its rich spirit and story. Juxtaposed with original works by NICOLEHOLLIS, these contemporary pieces resulted in a one-of-a-kind exhibition of the arts wholly inspired by the landscape, featuring pieces by several of the island’s most celebrated creators including Marques Marzan, Roen Hufford, Kaili Chun and Pegge Hopper.
“Our concept was to create relaxed luxury by incorporating textures and materials that were influenced by the land and the Hawaiian culture. Each part of the site has a unique aspect, such as the fishponds, white sand beach and black lava flow, from which we drew inspiration for the colors and textures of the interiors,” Hollis says.
Longtime devotees of the resort will be thrilled to see what is old is new again. Some original beloved amenities include the Shipwreck and Talk Story bars, as well as coconuts used outside hale doors to signal “Do Not Disturb.” It’s a message that syncs with all involved with Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort’s nine-year re-build project – restore, but do not disturb the mana (unique energy of power and strength) and history that resides here.
Learn more at RosewoodHotels.com.