Shangri La- Our Day Pt. 2

This O'ahu trip was provided with many tips from far more experienced Island travelers than ourselves. Mahalo to Jan for telling us about Shangri La.

In 1938, heiress Doris Duke (1912-93) completed her Honolulu home, Shangri La, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head. This magnificent place incorporates architectural features from the Islamic world and houses Duke’s extensive collection of Islamic art, which she assembled for nearly 60 years.
The tour originated at the Honolulu Museum of Art where we boarded a shuttle bus and arrived at the very private estate. As we stood at Miss Duke's front door, we were given many rules, one of which was "No inside photography". If you are curious, here is a link for a virtual tour. Our 'real' tour was over 90 minutes long, given by a very informative guide sharing the truly amazing collection of a truly amazing woman.
Not only was the interior designed with the greatest of detail, but so were the exteriors. The Mughal Garden is Shangri La’s microcosm of the royal gardens found throughout the Indian subcontinent. During her 1935 honeymoon travels in India, Miss Duke was exposed to, and fell in love with, the expansive and sumptuous gardens of the high Mughal period (late 1500s).
The five acre complex integrates a 14,000-square-foot house, a Playhouse, and a pool, comprising a series of interlocking spaces, both indoors and out: rooms, courtyards, lanais, terraces, gardens, and numerous water features. While design and early construction were underway, Duke traveled extensively in the Middle East, visiting historical monuments and providing the architect with photographs of architectural decoration to be incorporated into Shangri La’s design. She also placed large commissions with contemporary artisans in India, Morocco, Iran, and Syria to create art and architectural elements, utilizing traditional forms, patterns, and means of fabrication. Throughout the property, traditional Islamic art and architectural elements blend with a modernist sensibility; for example the contrast between the ornate Moroccan living room ceiling and the adjacent glass wall that fully retracts into the basement is a key example of the synthesis of tradition and modernism that defines the house’s aesthetic.



So why is this house here and open to the public? In accordance with her will, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) was created to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures. Shangri La is one of three properties which Doris Duke requested be opened for public visitation and used for educational programs. With the world in such strife, this was a forward thinking woman. Knowledge about other cultures makes them more friendly and when you can see the beauty they have created, it softens any negative preconceived notions. Shangri La is a place of peace and one we were so happy to have visited.

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