Alfred Preis in Hawaiʻi: Vienna Émigré, Architect, and Advocate

Pries Exhibit - Books in display case and banner titled Advocate

February 28, 2024-May 15, 2024
Location: Bridge Gallery

Alfred Preis was born in Vienna, Austria on February 2, 1911. He obtained his Architecture diploma in 1938 from the Vienna Technical University. Preis worked in Vienna as a site manager for Redlich and Berger and as a freelance designer for interiors, furniture, and store fronts. Although of Jewish background, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1936 and fled Nazi-occupied Austria with his wife in 1939 with the help of the Catholic Refugee Association.

The Honolulu architectural firm, Dahl & Conrad, sponsored Preis and employed him in 1939. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Preis was interned for 3.5 months at the Sand Island Detainment. After his release from internment, Preis returned to work for Dahl and Conrad, making measured drawings of the company’s machinery in the quarry. Preis accepted a position at the Hawaii Territorial Department of Public Works and later opened his own office, designing over 150 houses in Hawaii.

In 1962, Preis became an advisor to Gov. John Burns. He was the State Planning Coordinator for 3.5 years through the Dept. of Planning on social planning questions and understanding planning questions. He assisted with authoring many Bills for the Legislature that were focused on the environment. Through his capacity as Coordinator, he received information that there would be a national organization for the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, established in Washington, DC. He wrote a Bill to establish the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (1965), making Hawaiʻi the first state in the nation with a statewide arts organization. Preis did not distinguish between architecture and Arts. He felt the task of the State Foundation was to work with all people, of all cultural origins, of all economic and educational backgrounds.

Preis designed several landmarks in Honolulu, including the entrance to the Honolulu Zoo and the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial was dedicated by dedicated by the Pacific War Memorial Commission in 1962.

Preis became an advocate for the arts, culture, and education in Hawaii. He was the first Executive Director of the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts, serving from 1966 to 1980. In 1967, he authored the Bill that made Hawaii the first state to require companies to donate one percent of the construction costs of public buildings for public art. In 1989 the State Legislature created the Works of Art Special Fund (a.k.a., the 1% Works of Art Fund), which can be found in the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, Chapter 103 Expenditure Of Public Money And Public Contracts, Section 8.5. (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol02_Ch0046-0115/HRS0103/HRS_0103-0008_0005.htm)

Currently, the Works of Art Special Fund shall be used solely for the following purposes:

  1. Costs related to the acquisition of works of art, including any consultant or staff services required to carry out the art in public places and relocatable works of art programs;
  2. Site modifications, display, and interpretive work necessary for the exhibition of works of art;
  3. Upkeep services, including maintenance, repair, and restoration of works of art;
  4. Storing and transporting works of art.

Along with the SFCA and the Department of Education, Preis established the Artists in the Schools program that provided opportunities for students to work with local professional artists.
Alfred Preis passed away on March 29, 1993, in Honolulu, HI. His ashes were scattered from the Arizona memorial.

Designed and co-curated by Axel Schimitzberger (CalPoly Pomona) and Laura Maguire (UHM Architecture) with the generous support of the Austrian Consulate General – Los Angeles, this traveling exhibit on Alfred Preis’ legacy in Hawaiʻi will be on view in UHM Hamilton Library until May 15, 2024. Interested arts organizations, the UH System Libraries, and State library branches may book the exhibit. If interested, contact the Downtown Art Center Development Coordinator (development@downtownarthi.org) for hosting terms and schedules.

Pries Exhibit - Images and banner titled Refugee Pries Exhibit - Images and banner titled Apprentice Pries Exhibit - Images and books in display cases. Pries Exhibit - Books in display case and banner titled Advocate Pries Exhibit - Images and photo of Preis

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