Currents of Art and Architecture

Vladimir Ossipoff and His Collaboration with Many Artists

Before arriving to the Hawaiian Islands and touring much of Vladimir Ossipoff’s work I was unaware of the extent to which he collaborated with artists, and specifically local artists. This is so unique especially because the works are often incorporated into the architecture. Unlike many architects and interior designers today, which bring in an artist once the building has been designed. In Ossipoff’s work you can tell that the collaboration was holistic in that the artist was included from the beginning.

At the First National Bank Branch, built in 1961, now called the First Hawaiian Bank, sculpture Edward Brown crafted panels out of sandstone.


First National Bank Branch by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1961. Photo: Chelsea Anderson


In the sanctuary of Robert Shipman Thurston, Jr., Memorial Chapel, 1967 the walls that float over the lily pond are made of teak and stained glass by local artist, Erica Karawina. The Koa wood chapel doors are adorned with copper panels with scenes by Jean Charlot and cast by Evelyn Giddings.

Robert Shipman Thurston Jr., Memorial Chapel, Punahoe School by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1967. Photo: Chelsea Anderson


Diamond Head apartments by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1958. Photo: Chelsea Anderson


Another underutilized art form today that Ossipoff mastered is typography. From signage to words of wisdom, there is always opportunities to find well-crafted typeface in his work. The Diamond Head Apartments have a beautifully patina’d sign that illuminates to the street as a lantern in the night.

To welcome parishioners into the church through large Koa wood doors, “If anyone enters by me he will be saved.”

AIEA United Methodist Church Sanctuary by Vladimir Ossipoff, approximately 1960. Photo: Chelsea Anderson


Blue Cross Veterinary Hospital by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1938. Photo: Chelsea Anderson


One of my absolute favorites as a dog lover is at the Blue Cross Veterinary Hospital, “To man’s unselfish friend.” Something amazing Val also did, which I believe takes the work of an artist was his design to paint the undersides of the beams in the indoor-outdoor flex space at the Liljestrand House to enhance the appearance of the setting sun’s rays in the room.

Liljestrand House by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1952. Photo: Chelsea Anderson


The beams have a pattern of three yellow, one orange and two purple. In typical light conditions it goes unnoticed, but when the sun begins to set and streams deep into the room, you begin to see what he was after. The discovery of these details has inspired me to always think of ways in which art can be incorporated into architecture. This can just be through having good relationships with local artists and being open and collaborative in the creative process.

AuthorChelsea Anderson

Award-winning architect Chelsea Anderson is the founder and lead architect of Habitable Form and lecturer for the Clemson University Graduate School of Architecture at the Clemson Design Center Charleston.

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