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Jali Pavilion

Doris Duke and James Cromwell in the Jali Pavilion. Photo by Martin Munkácsi. Doris Duke Photograph Collection, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

While visiting India on their honeymoon, Doris Duke and her husband James Cromwell commissioned a set of marble jali screens for the bedroom of the house they intended to build in Palm Beach upon their return; however, enchanted by the tropics on their way back to the continent, they decided to build their house in Hawai’i, incorporating the screens into the new design. The marble jali panels are carved of a single piece of Makrana marble, the same marble used in the Taj Mahal, and weigh several hundred pounds each. When the shipment arrived from India in 1936, they were badly broken and a new set was ordered. Rather than dispose of the fragments, the first set was repaired and used to create the “Jali Pavilion,” a decorated enclosure on the roof of the master bedroom.

The original pavilion consisted of the marble panels and decorative arches supported by a site-cast concrete frame with plastered arched openings, stepped surrounds, fluted columns, and decorative coping and finials. A polished ochre sandstone base and inlay detail completed the structure. By the time Shangri La opened to the public in 2001, the concrete sections of the pavilion were severely damaged and spalling due to their proximity to the shoreline and exposure to the elements. In 2010, the Foundation determined that it was necessary to temporarily remove the pavilion in order to replace the roof above the Mughal Suite and Moroccan Room. As part of the larger re-roofing project, a new pre-cast concrete structure was designed to accommodate the historic marble panels. The new system is detailed such that, in the future, the pavilion can be deinstalled without damage.

Conservation of the Marble Jali Panels, 2012. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

In April 2012, the condition of the marble panels was assessed and documented, and a protocol for cleaning and repair developed. In May, the jali and sections of the concrete surround were shipped to a preservation contractor in California, so molds could be created to replicate the original cast concrete surrounds and complete the marble repairs using a structural epoxy adhesive. 

In November 2012, all of the pieces (seventy-three crates, weighing 80,000 pounds total) returned to Hawai‘i. A small crane was used to lift the crates from the entry courtyard over the Private Garden onto the roof. By January 2013, the concrete frame was successfully erected and the newly-conserved marble jali panels and surrounds were installed. The final decorative plaster details were hand-applied by local masons.

This project required a dual approach for the treatment of the jali pavilion’s historic features. A preservation approach was used on the original marble jali panels while the pre-cast concrete frame and plaster finishes were reconstructed. With the reinstallation of the rooftop Jali Pavilion, one of Shangri La’s most beautiful and characteristic architectural features has been resurrected.

The Restored Jali Pavilion looking southeast. © 2014, Linny Morris, courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

We were honored to receive a Preservation Award from Historic Hawaii Foundation, the statewide non-profit preservation group, for the preservation and reconstruction of the jali pavilion in May 2014. The award acknowledges the complex process of preserving the marble jali and reconstructing their cast concrete surrounds.

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