Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art


Mason Architects Inc.


Honolulu, Hawaii


Doris Duke decided to build a seasonal home in Honolulu after her honeymoon in 1935, which took her through the Islamic world for the first time and included a lengthy stay in Hawaii. Captivated by Islamic cultures and enchanted by Hawaii, Doris Duke designed her new home in collaboration with architect Marion Sims Wyeth to evoke the beauty and character of each.

Shangri La was completed in 1937 and houses one of the most diverse and extensive collections of Islamic art in the United States, embracing all forms of art, from ceramics to textiles, to paintings, to metalwork, from the courtly arts to tribal and folk arts. For nearly 60 years, Doris Duke commissioned and collected artifacts for Shangri La, ultimately forming a collection of about 3,500 objects. Massive painted ceilings, elaborately carved doorways, intricate mosaic tile panels, colorful textiles and ceramics, and numerous other art forms enliven the interiors and create an environment rich in texture and pattern.
This multi-level, cast-in-place concrete structure is located on five acres of waterfront property with spectacular views of Diamond Head and the ocean. The main house measures approximately 14,000 square feet and is built around a central patio open to the sky and landscaped with water terraces, marble steps, tropical gardens and vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Today Shangri La is recognized as one of Hawaii's most architecturally significant homes and is open to the public for small guided group tours.

The Science and Design of Structural Engineering

The original building was constructed as a personal residence and may not have been able to handle larger public gatherings that could occur in its new function as a museum. BASE examined the existing construction documents and researched the material properties for concrete and reinforcing steel used at the time of construction to evaluate the capacity to accommodate large transient loadings. Knowledge of historic building code requirements and building materials was a requirement in this review process.

Client Benefits

The modeling and analysis of the existing structure provided appropriate evidence that potentially expensive and intrusive upgrade of the structure was not necessary. This allowed the non-profit organization to preserve capital funds for maintenance and other functional requirements of the museum.