Alfred Preis Displaced: The Tropical Modernism of the Austrian Emigrant and Architect of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Edited and designed by Axel Schmitzberger
Co-published with Pacific Historic Parks.

Contributions by Axel Schmitzberger, Stephen Phillips, August Sarnitz, Christopher Long, and Laura McGuire

256 pages. Fully illustrated in color. Includes renderings, drawings, and documents.
September 2022. Softcover with bibliography, index and catalog raisonné.
Ebook also available.

$34.95 | 9781954600140

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The first publication to catalog the complete works of architect and arts advocate Alfred Preis, a Viennese modernist who fled Nazi-occupied Austria and transformed regional Hawaiian architecture, with his best-known project being the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Architect, planner, and arts advocate Alfred Preis (1911–1994) dedicated his many creative talents to his beloved, adopted home, Hawai‘i. Born to a Jewish family, raised, and educated in Vienna, Preis became an exile after escaping from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1939 and briefly being interned as an “enemy alien” when the United States entered World War II. Preis emerged as one of Hawai‘i’s leading modern architects in the 1950s and 1960s. His celebrated architectural career spanned twenty-three years. In this time, he designed almost one hundred and eighty completed projects ranging from residences, schools, commercial buildings, and public parks. His new, regionalist vision for architecture and planning were specific to the Hawaiian context, its people, its tropical climate, and its stunning landscape. Preis’s crowning achievement was his design for the famed USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in 1962. 

This is the first publication to examine Alfred Preis’s body of work in architecture, which spans from 1939 to 1963, including not only several acclaimed public projects but also illustrating the transition from a European modern language into a regional modernism, unifying both cultures in distinct and pioneering ways. 

In later years through his legislative work, Alfred Preis became a visionary advocate and leader for the public arts, creating the first 1% law in the United States, which stipulated that 1% of all public building construction be used for the purchase of public art. 


On May 30, 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial was officially dedicated. The white concrete and steel structure is 184 feet (56 metres) long and spans the wreckage. It was designed by Alfred Preis, an Austrian-born architect who was sent to a U.S. internment camp after the Pearl Harbor attack. His simple design features a concave silhouette, with the middle representing the country’s low point following the attack and the raised ends symbolizing victory. The 21 open-air windows are said to reference a 21-gun salute. In 1980 oversight of the memorial was transferred to the National Park Service. Approximately 1.8 million people visit the memorial each year.

Preis is best known for his design of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, though he worked extensively on residences, schools, and parks in Honolulu and O’ahu. Preis was pragmatic, client-oriented, and a modernist with training in the holistic principles of Wagner and Loos that he understood and adopted. Over the years, he would shift to a regional modernism.

The first major effort to this date to bring the Austrian-American architect back into the international spotlight by capturing, illustrating, and contextualizing the wide spectrum and influence of his prolific architectural and advocacy work. With his architecture as central focus, [Alfred Preis Displaced] seeks an opportunity to highlight Preis’s built work to a larger audience and acknowledge the bi-cultural exchange between Austria and the US state of Hawai‘i.
—ArtFix Daily

Committed to progressive racial and social causes in the islands’ political and social spheres […] Preis articulated the value of locally-sourced materials and examples of his work include how the islands coped with material shortages after the war. He also constructed hundreds of homes for low-to-middle-income state residents, defining himself as an architect not for the elite, but as a designer for the people of Hawaiʻi.
—University of Hawai‘i News

Preis — who fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1939 and two years later was forced into internment with Japanese and German nationals at the Sand Island Detainment Camp — built some of the Hawai‘i’s most enduring structures and institutions. He designed the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and founded the Hawai‘i State Foundation for Culture and Arts, serving as executive director from 1966-1980.
—On the Grid, newsletter of CalPoly Pomona, College of Environmental Design


Axel Schmitzberger is a licensed architect and professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He has taught at various academic institutions in the United States, Taiwan and Austria in the areas of Architecture, Multimedia and Graphic Design and practiced in various architectural design and multimedia offices on internationally recognized projects, including for Morphosis Architects. He is the recipient of several awards for his internationally published residential, commercial and graphic design work. In 2019, he co-curated with Stephen Phillips the exhibit “Resident Alien — Austrian Architects in America” at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York.


Laura McGuire is a U.S.-based architecture and design historian. She is an Assistant Professor of Architectural History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of Architecture at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Dr. Stephen Phillips, FAIA is an architect, scholar, historian, curator, and educator. He is principal architect at Stephen Phillips Architects (SPARCHS) and Professor of Architecture at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

August Sarnitz is a practicing architect and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, Architectural History and Architectural Theory at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. 

Christopher Long is Martin S. Kermacy Centennial Professor of Architectural and Design History at the University of Texas at Austin.