Alfred Preis almost didn’t become an architect. More accurately, Alfred Preis almost didn’t survive to become the highly regarded architect he became.
He survived tuberculosis at age four, then World War I in Vienna, then managed to acquire passports that allowed him and his wife to leave Nazi-occupied Austria.
When they arrived in Hawaii in 1939, he had an architecture diploma from Vienna Technical University in his back pocket, and began working as a draftsman, Hana Hou magazine explained. He began working to become an architect, and had just passed his American Institute of Architects certification exams when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Not long after, the Preis family was taken to the Sand Island Detainment Camp as part of the U.S. internment policy regarding German and Japanese Americans, and would remain there for three months.
It took time to work his way back, but eventually he became the first executive director of the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts, where he served from 1966 to 1980. His commitment and impact on the arts in Hawaii is still acknowledged today — the Hawaii Arts Alliance presents the Alfred Preis Honor to individuals who show a lifetime commitment to art and arts education.
He also designed the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, and a dozen homes on Melemele Place, the Honolulu enclave where he lived for 50 years.
He also built our historical shelter this week, a 1949 Midcentury Modern with three bedrooms, two baths, and 2,223 square feet in Maualani Heights.
The brick and redwood home has managed to honor Preis’s intentions but still provide modern updates, including engineered wood flooring, a remodeled kitchen, a new deck, and updated electric.
Original and well-maintained pocket doors, wall-to-wall windows, and open floorplan embrace Preis’ Midcentury Modern design. The home also boasts panoramic Diamond Head, city, and ocean views.
And if that wasn’t enough, it sits on a large lot where Kukui, breadfruit, pommelo, white fig, pomegranate, mandarin orange, bamboo, dwarf avocado, and mango trees create gorgeous landscaping.