Sean Connelly is a Pacific Islander American1 designer and creative producer. Sean is an architect, artist, urban ecologist, and educator. He holds a Doctorate of Architecture from the University of Hawai‘i and a Master in Design in Landscape, Urbanism, and Ecology from Harvard University (with concentrations in Real Estate Development, City Making and Urban Economics).
Sean is the author and producer of Hawai'i Futures, a virtual intervention for island urbanism. The project is often referenced as an education tool in curriculum around Hawai‘i and beyond, including the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Sean’s work also includes the sculptures A Small Area of Land for ii Gallery, and Land Division for the Honolulu Museum of Art. As well as recent projects for the Honolulu Biennial, and Contact Hawai'i. Forthcoming projects include a new-media anthology titled Hydraulic Islands.
Sean was born on O‘ahu in 1984 and raised around Kona and Ko‘olaupoko. He works collaboratively across the East Coast, Southwest, and Pacific. Collaborations have included experience on a range of professional projects, design publications, academic studios, presentations, and events for a variety of entities including: Hawaii State Department of Transportation; Columbia University Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting (C-LAB); ARCHIS; Volume Magazine; Red Bull; The Whitney Museum; The Venice Biennial; Interisland Terminal; Na Mea Hawai‘i; Harvard University Graduate School of Design; Harvard Kennedy School of Government Center for Public Leadership; Harvard Business School Leadership Initiative; Harvard University Native American Program; Honolulu Museum of Art; Princeton Architectural Press; Kamehameha Schools; Office of Metropolitan Architecture; Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; Polynesian Voyaging Society; Brown University School of Public Health; Santa Fe Art Institute; Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative; as well as a variety of other small business, institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
Statement of Responsibility to Design:
I chose to pursue architecture as a career path in college with a belief that buildings should be designed with its surroundings in mind. I wanted to keep my home Hawai‘i a beautiful place. As such basic ideas expanded to encompass notions of form, cycle, and gradient, architecture became a pathway to study the built-environment in terms of material, system, ecology, and justice; it became a venue for criticism and creation. Art and Design provide tremendous potential to query and convey feelings of society, mind, and environment as they occur in time and in space. Considering adjacent interactions with other fields like geology, biology, and linguistics, architecture emerges scientifically and becomes a multitude of disciplines and scales within and around which I am grateful to operate.
As an active creative producer, I work with a variety of media in ways that are antidisciplinary. I appreciate the environment as a direct source of data and power. From this approach, mapping is a strategic process to visualize and speculate form and its formations, in and over time. Radical and challenging ideas of energy and ecology are critical venues for rediscovery, and are explored from creation chants to cybernetics to chaos. Emotional affect is achieved in the material and geometric craft of form. Site, history, technology, and ceremony are the basis for dialog and invention.
As an educator, I am interested in expanding boundaries through at least four synergistic goals: (1) Heighten creative intelligence as a method for leadership and entrepreneurship to produce works in art and design that renegotiate and reconnect ecology, science, culture, and economics in ways that challenge and provide mediums for people to fulfill diverse needs and aspirations. (2) Embolden art and design as events of activism and inspired change, as works that engage attention spans and organize new pathways to confront and heal the injustices of obsolete design. (3) Recover marginalized histories that hold the insights for creative change. (4) Shift perspectives and possibilities critically through creative research and speculation to uncover the range of issues at the forefront of environmental change, justice, and regained delight.
My commitment to the pedagogy and practice of design is informed by my humble role as an accomplice in environmental, social, political, racial, and cultural justice and change. My commitment is developed through conversations and a soft range of experience in activism across different fields of solidarity, as is the network of my family, mentors, friends, and acquaintances whom I remember fondly. As one who could identify as a lower-middle class queer person of color (my mother is brown and my father white) I believe in an approach to collaboration that is achieved through active vulnerability, listening, learning, and allied action.
1. My genealogy is statistically determined as descending from the following regions: East Asia; Britain; Polynesia; Ireland; Italy/Greece; Iberian Peninsula; West Europe; North Africa; Scandinavia; Central Asia; South Asia; and Caucasus. My father Timothy was born in California. His great grandparents came to the United States, half from Ireland through North Carolina, half from Mexico and Spain. My mother Teresa was born on O‘ahu. Her parents immigrated from Luzon Island in the Philippines to Moloka‘i before Hawai‘i became a US State. The remains of all four of my grandparents are either buried or scattered on O‘ahu, as will my remains one day. My parents met in Waikīkī, where my mother used to work. After my sister Alex was born, we lived in Kalihi Valley within the range of Kilohana on the other side of the valley and stream where my Mom’s family and I grew up too. Recently I have lived in California, New York, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.
Projects for Architecture, Landscape, and Infrastructure
About Sean Connelly