Designer is commissioned to convert state Capitol pools to waterless feature

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Mar. 22—The long-troublesome reflecting pools at the state Capitol will be permanently dried up and converted to an artistic landscape with elements resembling water from around Hawaii designed by Native Hawaiian artist Solomon Enos.

The long-troublesome reflecting pools at the state Capitol will be permanently dried up and converted to an artistic landscape with elements resembling water from around Hawaii designed by Native Hawaiian artist Solomon Enos.

Board members of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts on Wednesday selected Enos from among 122 applicants seeking to design a waterless replacement for the two pools that maintains symbolism of the pools resembling the ocean around Hawaii.

The new "waterless pool " landscape sought by the foundation and the state Department of Accounting and General Services was pursued in 2023 after decades of leaks into the Capitol building and problems keeping the water from being foul.

The project covering two acres around the building will be the biggest installation and second commission from the foundation for Enos, a multimedia artist whose work ranges from murals to comic books.

Enos, who was born and raised in Makaha Valley and has traveled extensively in the Pacific, said his vision is to include colors and textures from different waters around Hawaii and perhaps the broader Pacific region—places that could include Molokai fishponds, Kaneohe Bay, Papahanaumokuakea and more.

"I really want to make sure that the piece reflects the many, many waters ... that surround our islands, " he said in an interview.

The vision by Enos also might incorporate stones reflecting parts of Hawaii, though he said the design work is only at a beginning stage.

Designed by a predecessor to local architecture firm AHL and San Francisco-based John Carl Warnecke and Associates, the Capitol was built in 1969 to symbolize a volcanic island with palm trees (columns supporting the building ) rising out of the ocean.

Enos said his plan is to stay in tune with that.

"The state Capitol is a huge sculpture, " he said. "It is a massive art installation that also happens to be a building. ... It is quite a singular space, and so what I aspire to do is to add on to, like an addendum, to continue that aesthetic and that legacy of it being a very powerful art statement and an art piece."

Enos said he was surprised at being picked because the design imagery he conveyed was not as polished as he wanted, but he felt perhaps the story he conveyed won over the board and a selection committee.

An eight-member selection committee included DAGS Director Keith Regan, state Sen. Chris Lee, state Rep. Adrian Tam, Honolulu Board of Water Supply Manager Ernest Lau and AHL historic architect Katie Stephens.

"The committee members understood how much of an impact this will have in our community and we are pleased to select Solomon to develop a design for the future waterless pools, " Regan said in a statement.

A commission for Enos from the foundation for the project is $233, 507, according to the foundation, which is a state agency for arts.

Enos, an artist for over 30 years, has had one other Art in Public Places commission from the foundation, a glass mosaic mural created at Castle High School. Enos also has been volunteering for about a year as the first artist-in-residence at the Capitol Modern, formerly known as the Hawai 'i State Art Museum, in the No. 1 Capitol District Building next to the state Capitol.

The No. 1 Capitol District Building years ago had its swimming pool converted to a sculpture garden with a pool-like look that involved the foundation and was designed by artist Doug Young.

The foundation will manage the state Capitol pool redevelopment project, which is anticipated to be finished in the fall of 2026 after DAGS completes construction to fix leaks from the pool basins that were damaging basement offices, electrical ducts, the parking garage ceiling and other parts of the building.

A contractor for DAGS finished repairs on the Diamond Head pool at the beginning of this year, and plans to do Ewa pool work later this year.

The total project cost, according to the governor's office, is $46.8 million and includes $2 million from a special fund for art.