The state capitol building in Honolulu could only house the government of Hawaii. Unlike other states with capitols that have domes and wings like the U.S Capitol building, Hawaii has a building that celebrates the two ways this state came to be: physically and politically.

The House and Senate chambers have curved, sloping walls like volcanoes. It is something you can see more clearly from the outside of the building, although visible inside. Volcanic action produced the inpidual islands of Hawaii, and continues to this day with an active volcano on Hawaii Island. Instead of a dome atop the building, the roof slopes up open to the sky. A Wikipedia article says the chandeliers of the legislative chambers symbolize the moon and sun with the open sky and stars serving as the dome.

The capitol building is also ringed with columns that look like stylized palm trees. There are eight on a side, for Hawaii’s eight islands. The number eight is repeated in spacing of the columns of the upper level, as well. Although the islands were unified into the Kingdom of Hawaii by King Kamehameha I, they retain distinct personalities. In many ways, the state of Hawaii is like a confederation. Each major island is a separate county and has issues different from fellow islands that are mediated in these halls.*

The state website says the building “was designed with extensive amounts of open space, both inside and out, to convey a sense of open government.” It certainly feels open and yet intimate inside.

A reflecting pool surrounding the building symbolizes the Pacific Ocean, and statues of Queen Liliuokalani and Father Damien represent epochs in state history. They serve as additional symbols of the physical and political forces that have created this state.*Kauai County includes the island of Niihau and Maui County includes Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

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