Dana Anne Yee, Landscape Architect, LLC.


Project Name:Maryknoll High School Garden Entrance
Location:Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Client:Maryknoll School

Maryknoll High School is a small private school with 575 students, located on 1.8 acres of land. Maryknoll High School moved from Dole Street to its present location on Punahou Street overlooking the H-1 freeway in 1948. Punahou Street was a prominent neighborhood during the Missionary times. The Hotel MacDonald was on the property prior to the high school and, at that time, the street was lined with Royal Palms. Many of these same Royal Palms remained on the property but were in very poor health and needed to be removed. With safety being the first priority and to preserve the character of Maryknoll School’s past as well as to fulfill the requirements of the Punchbowl Special Design District, nine healthy field stock Royal Palms were planted to replace the original palms.

With limited space, every inch of land was valuable. This is why it was surprising that after more than 50 years, Maryknoll did not make use of its 5,800 square foot front entrance. Everyone just passed by the brown grass and hot, noisy entrance on their way to class. Maryknoll was in need of a place for students, faculty and staff that was conducive to learning; a place where they could study, have lunch, or get together with friends.

Working together with Maryknoll’s student representatives, faculty, staff, the Maryknoll Board, civil engineers and the maintenance crew, a master plan took shape. This master plan addressed the needs of the students and faculty to provide gathering spaces, to sit, provide shade, to screen unsightly views and to provide the much needed improvements to the entrance of Maryknoll. After meeting with the students we found that one of their concerns was protection of their “senior’s turf”, which surprisingly, was merely a 5’ x 5’ concrete area.

A scope of work was developed for the entire school with a Phase 1 plan to design and construct a welcoming entrance. An open lawn with seating areas under five outdoor umbrellas, with Maryknoll’s maroon and gold school colors, helped to encourage interaction among the students. The seating areas were separated in height and space so that students could congregate. Interestingly, the circular concrete tables and seating areas became the “senior’s turf”, which they were very proud of.

Maryknoll High School had many site constraints to overcome. Located next to the H-1 Freeway entrance and a busy Punahou Street, the noise, smell and sight of cars were mitigated by the shaping of the land and the selection of plant material. A gentle berm and a border of Mock Orange hedge was designed that helped to screen the noise and pollution. A smooth and flowing curved concrete brick header was placed to separate the grass from the ground cover, shrubs and trees. This would ensure easier maintenance. The layering of differing heights of plant material helped to make a small garden space appear larger. Flowering and fragrant trees and shrubs with native Hawaiian plants such as Naio, Black Naio, Ulei, ‘A’ali’i, Kulei, Native White Hibiscus and Native Gardenia created the variety of plants that provided a second screen from the busy streets. Ti leaves were planted for good luck and for cheering of the Maryknoll Spartans and Pac-Five. The careful selection of leaves and plants with textures, shapes and colors that worked well together were important to create a simple cohesive plant palate in this small space. The garden provided an outdoor classroom that promoted an awareness of native Hawaiian plants.

Plumeria Trees planted both for lei making and fragrance, filtered light and shadow play on the ground and provided shade. The Royal Palms were placed strategically to allow for an open grass area for students to both play on and to enable space for a crane to be pulled up to prune the Royal Palms. The existing large Pink Plumeria Tree was saved and along with all of the trees and palms could be properly pruned by a certified arborist. Trees with non-aggressive roots were planted to help prevent the uplifting of the paving. With the addition of green spaces, the glare and heat of the paving and ground was reduced. Working with the civil engineer, care was taken for the grading to follow natural drainage patterns to thus help prevent ponding and low spots as well as to direct water away from the school buildings. The school landscape was designed to be environmentally responsible. Care was taken to conserve energy by planting xeriscape and native Hawaiian plants. A new irrigation system was added to provide low maintenance. An automatic irrigation clock and a rain gauge were added to help to regulate the water flow and reduce water use.

The Maryknoll entrance is an environment that fosters learning, promotes stewardship of the land and encourages ecological awareness. The key to the success of the project is that what was once a barren, unused front entrance has been transformed into a functional, attractive gathering space. Students can be now be seen studying under the shade of the maroon and gold umbrellas. At last, after over half a century, Maryknoll High School, a little school by the freeway, has a delightful pleasant garden entrance that they and the community can take pride in and enjoy.

Maryknoll High School, Garden Entrance was recognized by Scenic Hawaii , Betty Crocker Landscape Award of Excellence in 2004.
Maryknoll High School, Garden Entrance was also recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects for an Award of Merit in 2006.