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Kohala Center 2003-2004 | Kohala, Hawaii

Founded in the year 2000, The Kohala Center is an independent, community-based center for research, conservation, and education.

Kohala Center turns research and traditional knowledge into action, so that communities in Hawaii and around the world can thrive - ecologically, culturally, and socially. KC's main areas of interest are energy self-reliance, food self-reliance, and ecosystem health.

In 2003, KC and RoTo Architects received a large grant from NEA to use in 2 ways. First, they convened an 'intentional' gathering of selected Big Island people from three local communities, indigenous, ranchers, and scientists. The second objective was for everyone to participate in a 4 day workshop to reconceive how best to repurpose a former boarding school on 20 acres of fertile land, into a campus for Kohala Center to host research scholars from the mainland.

We asked 2 questions of everyone, expecting them to answer through the work itself. First, what can people learn from the Big Island? and Second, what facilities will be needed for them to live work and play here as they transform from a group of individuals into a networked community? What emerged was a coherent message from a divergent group - "the entire island is a teaching landscape for research and discovery and the main campus would be a place for residencies and plenary meetings. 3 groups who often ignored each other began to speak with a common purpose and an open mind. The creative tasks we assigned were a pretext for their new relationships.

The buildings on these 20 acres will be a 'homeroom' for travelers in their mobile classrooms, learning from the island.