In my striving to discover interesting people of Russian origin, I have recently found out that one of the most prominent architects in Hawai’i was Russian! His name is Vladimir Ossipoff. Val’s life seemed to be full of surprises. Born in 1907 in Vladivostok, he spent most of his childhood in Japan, where his father was a military attaché at the Russian Embassy. After the 1917 October Revolution, the Ossipoffs fist remained in Japan. At the beginning no one believed that the Bolsheviks would remain in power. Many considered the October Revolution a temporary event. However, by the early 1920s it had become clear that the Soviets would stay in power longer than expected. In 1923 the Ossipoffs moved to the U.S. Val spoke Japanese, English and Russian fluently. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in architecture and moved to Hawai’i where he participated in the construction of multiple buildings contributing to the change in landscape in Hawai’i.
Val Ossipoff has been called “the master of Hawaii modern architecture,” “the dean of residential architects in Hawaii” and “the premier postwar designer of kama’aina-style” (word for a long-term resident of the Hawaiian Islands-literally means ‘child of the land’ in Hawaiian). His most famous building is Lilijestrand House – the house of Betty and Howard Liljestrand, a doctor and nurse who had bought the hillside site overlooking the leeward side in Oahu. He later declared that throughout his life he carried out a “War on Ugliness.”
I wanted to learn more about Val’s life but information about him is not very abundant on the Internet. Nonetheless, I found a trailer from the documentary film about him made by Bill Kubta and Scott Kemp in 2007 – “True to Form: Vladimir Ossipoff Architect.” Short video extracts show a handsome and well-built man whose life was devoted to work and who managed to change the face of earth for the better.
To see the trailer click here.