Places that Work: The Porch at the Moana Surfrider

In Waikiki, there’s proof that front porches in hot climates can shelter and refresh weary humans

The front porch of the Moana Surfrider in Honolulu in Waikiki is a place that works – and not because it’s located in paradise.

A sheltering way-station for those who have been by meandering in Honolulu’s relentless summer heat and intense sunshine, this shaded outdoor room provides a welcome respite. Comfortable rocking chairs line up waiting for the guests at this Westin resort and spa; unofficially, they also welcome anyone walking by. Directly behind the building, and parallel to the porch, is the Pacific Ocean.

The porch works because it is a shaded, roofed space that looks out over the brightly lit sidewalk and street. This is the sort of “prospect and refuge” configuration that evokes a feeling of comfort and safety in our species.

Sitting on the porch is reminiscent (at least to our unconscious minds) of surveying a sunlit valley from an ancient cave. The ceiling of the space is quite high, but hanging lamps makes it seem lower and cozier. In addition the high-backed rocking chairs make a seated person feel protected, therefore relaxed.

Being able to watch the continuous stream of humanity in front of the Surfrider from this slightly elevated vantage point, may remind some of watching fish swim in an aquarium. The rhythmic movement, be it of fish or people, sooths us and dissipates tension.

On arguably the most developed beach in the world, the Surfrider has created a space that sooths and supports human beings in a fundamental, primordial way.

Sally Augustin, PhD, is a principal at Design with Science. She is also the editor of Research Design Connections and the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009). She can be reached at sallyaugustin@designwithscience.com

This post is part of a series of Places that Work.

Categories: Design

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