Alfred Preis

Vienna in the tropics

Austrian Émigré, Modernist and Architect of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor 

curated by Prof. D.I. Axel Schmitzberger R.A., California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and Laura McGuire, Ph.D., University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

This exhibition is dedicated to the fascinating life story and oeuvre of the US-Austrian architect Alfred Preis (1911-1994). Born, raised, and educated in Vienna, Preis had to flee from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1939 and he emigrated to Honolulu. Briefly imprisoned as “enemy alien” after the United States entered World War II, he emerged as one of Hawaii’s leading architects in the 1950s and 60s. His celebrated career spanned over twenty-three years and comprised almost 180 built projects ranging from residences, schools, and parks – to the famous USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Merging Vienna’s distinctive modernism with Hawaii’s cultures and climate, Preis forged intriguing, novel idioms for modern architecture and design in the tropics.

One of the reasons Alfred Preis has not been known to a wider international public until now may be because he worked almost exclusively in the remote Hawaiian archipelago. 

Secondarily, Preis’s decision to leave architecture behind – at the peak of his career – and to dedicate himself to an advocacy role as founder and president of the State Foundation for the Culture and the Arts in Hawaiʻi (1963 to 1980), increasingly removed him from the eyes of architectural critics and historians.

This exhibition, on the eve of Alfred Preis’s 110th anniversary in 2021, is the first major effort to bring this US-Austrian architect back into the international spotlight by capturing, illustrating, and contextualizing the wide spectrum and influence of his prolific work.

This exhibition was initiated by and is organized under the auspices of the Austrian Consulate General in Los Angeles as part of a program series highlighting the major contributions of Austrian emigres from Nazi-occupied Europe to US culture.  



Credits: The content of this online exhibition is generously supported by the research of Jack Gillmar, Don Hibbard, Preis’s son – Jan-Peter Preis – and the photographer David Franzen. It largely based on the work of Laura McGuire, Ph.D. for The Alfred Preis Book Project. Additional texts and a full building catalogue are by Prof. Axel Schmitzberger. Some USS Arizona memorial texts were contributed by Don Hibbard.

This Web resource has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities Grant FEL-262343-19, A Biography of Alfred Preis (1911-1993): Immigrant, Architect, and Designer of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.” Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Web resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Copyrights: The material presented in this exhibit is copyrighted by The Alfred Preis Book Project and other private sources, unless otherwise noted. The text for the exhibition was authored by Laura McGuire, Axel Schmitzberger, and Don Hibbard.

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Formative Years in Vienna and Escape From the Nazis  (1911-1939)


A New Life in Hawai‘i:  First Steps as an Architect & Internment as an Enemy Alien (1939 – 1942)

A Public Icon: From a Master of Hawaiian Modernism to Hawaii’s ‘Art Czar’

Vienna Modernism in Hawai‘i and the Bi-cultural Exchange

Hawai‘i: A Space In Between


Beyond architecture: Alfred Preis, activist, environmentalist, visionary

Public spaces and buildings for communities

Residential work

USS Arizona memorial (1959-1962)