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McKay Complex

The BYU–Hawaii President's Council is excited to share with you that the BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees has committed to making an unprecedented investment in the future of BYU–Hawaii. This investment will renew the university’s buildings and infrastructure for the next 50 years. Planning for and building the university of the future is an exciting and complex endeavor. We are grateful to be entrusted with this stewardship and committed to fulfilling it righteously. We are blessed to have the Board of Trustees fully engaged in discussions and decision-making at every stage of this process.

Timeline and Process for the New McKay Complex

Master Planning—The WHY

Since mid-2020, we have studied the strategic direction of the university, and what it needs to accomplish its mission. Study is ongoing, and changes as we seek additional ways to meet the following principles.

Programming—The WHAT

As a result of our master planning efforts, we have identified many concepts to improve university programs and facilities. Those guiding principles include:

  • Reduce and Simplify: Focus on what matters most in the simplest practical way.
  • Flexible and Adaptable: Create spaces that can accommodate multiple activities and be easily reconfigured to support changes in university programs and pedagogy. Future-proof the university for the next 50 years.
  • Enhance the student experience: Design spaces focused on student needs first.

Design—The HOW

Having completed the programming phase, the design team has initiated the process of identifying adjacencies, maximizing the efficient use of space and creating the look and feel of the university. This includes using architectural forms and themes that are appropriate to the host culture of Hawaii. These themes will be included in both building and site elements. We will also incorporate all building systems required for the functioning of a modern higher educational facility. During this phase the design team will submit applications to obtain approvals from the local planning department.

Construction Documents

Upon completion of the Schematic design and Design Development phases, the design team will create full construction documentation ready for submittal to the local jurisdiction for permitting and bidding.


Working with the City and County of Honolulu to get all the permission needed to start construction.


Starting with the demolition of old buildings, to site work of new spaces, and then new construction.


Once construction is completed, we are issued a certificate of occupancy, and we start using the new space.


The current timeline:

  • Master Planning started in 2020 and took two years.
  • Programming started in late 2021 and should take two years.
  • Design started in April 2023 and should take about five months.
  • Construction Documents should take about 13 months.
  • Permitting should take 12-18 months.
  • Construction (all phases) should take seven and a half years.

Announcements and Updates

  • “Our Missionaries Bless the Islands,” depicts early Latter-day Saint missionaries dedicating the Hawaiian Islands for the missionary work to commence.
    Photo by Monique Saenz
    “The Defiance of Pele,” mural depicts Queen Kapiolani defying the Hawaiian Goddess Pele and declaring Jehovah the one true God.
    Photo by Monique Saenz

    Brigham Young University–Hawaii has initiated a preservation project on the interior murals of the McKay Foyer. The preservation process will be led by expert conservator Scott Haskins from Fine Art Conservation Laboratories. Haskins has received multiple awards in recognition of the skillful work he's done nationwide. Under his direction, state-of-the-art conservation techniques will be used to ensure long-term preservation and potential for future display.

    "These beautiful murals have been an important part of telling the story of the rise of Christianity in Hawaii and the beginnings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pacific Islands," said Kevin Schlag, operations vice president. "We are excited to have them preserved and look forward to finding the right place to display them in the new construction."

  • As previously announced, the BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees has committed to making an unprecedented investment in the future of BYU–Hawaii. This investment will renew the university’s buildings and infrastructure for the next 50 years. The BYU–Hawaii President’s Council is grateful to be entrusted with this stewardship and committed to fulfilling it righteously. “Planning for and building the university of the future is an exciting and complex endeavor," said Kevin Schlag, operations vice president. "We are blessed to have the Board of Trustees fully engaged in discussions and decision-making at every stage of this process.”

    Read the full announcement and see the renderings.
  • With approval from the BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees, BYU–Hawaii is delighted to unveil proposed plans for the new campus welcome center, which includes the preservation and display of significant portions of the McKay mosaic.

    This new building will be focused on Jesus Christ and tell the story of how faith in Christ and a desire to live His teachings are the foundation of our Lāʻie community. It will narrate the story of this community’s origins, the Laie Hawaii Temple, the university’s establishment, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the ongoing demonstration of intercultural peace fostered by this community.

    Preserved portions of the McKay mosaic will be displayed as a significant feature of the new building. Such portions will include President David O. McKay holding the American flag, the Laie Hawaii Temple, schoolchildren gathered at the flag-raising ceremony, and the Hawaii state motto: “Ua Mau ke Ea o Ka ‘Āina i ka Pono.” The names of labor missionaries will also be added as part of this display.

    The welcome center will also feature important stories about the school, the community, labor missionaries, and other significant events. These stories aim to give students and visitors a deeper understanding of the prophetic vision and spiritual foundations that make this place so special.

    We continue to seek your feedback and ideas on stories that could be told in the new welcome center. Please share your suggestions by email to
  • I was grateful to hear our community’s voices and perspectives at Tuesday's Laie Community Association meeting. I was also grateful to briefly speak on our plans to preserve and safeguard BYU–Hawaii for the future. I want to share some thoughts to summarize and follow up on what I said there.

    I am deeply grateful for and enthusiastic about the unprecedented investment the Church is making in BYU–Hawaii. As a descendant of Kaleohano, who was part of the founding of this community, my love and appreciation for BYU–Hawaii, the Church, President David O. McKay, and Laie runs deep. The heritage of the Church College of Hawaii and BYU–Hawaii is profound and the mosaic on its facade is a meaningful symbol of that heritage.

    Although the current McKay Complex has critical structural problems and must be replaced, we are committed to preserving significant portions of the mosaic as a central feature of the new construction. The BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees has approved this approach and the planning of the new McKay building. This building will chronicle the rich heritage of Laie, the historic visit of President McKay and the flag-raising ceremony, as well as the countless contributions of students, faculty, staff, and labor missionaries, and the Church’s longtime commitment and investments, all of which have made BYU–Hawaii the treasure it is today. The new building and preservation activities will further the mission of BYU–Hawaii to prepare students of Oceania and the Asian Rim to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in their families, communities, and chosen fields.

    President John S.K. Kauwe III

    University President
  • The university is in the design phase of replacing the McKay buildings. These buildings were built by the Church labor missionaries in the late 1950s, and they have served the campus very well for many years. However, some areas of the McKay General Classroom Building are currently not safe to use, and we need to replace all those buildings over the next few years.

    Replacing 40 percent of the academic space on campus while keeping the school running is quite challenging. To do that, we need to build new buildings before we can take down old ones. Part of the construction phasing is to build new buildings to the north of the existing McKay Building, which means the current McKay Foyer will then need to come down.

    The McKay mosaic represents one of the key foundational moments of our university, so we want to preserve it. However, it is not feasible to preserve the McKay mosaic as it is. We are looking at how best to honor the mosaic; it has been an iconic fixture of the campus since it was completed in 1958. Plans for the new McKay Complex include a welcome center, where we can tell the story of not only the 1921 flag-raising ceremony, which the mosaic represents but other historically significant moments of the school and Laie as well. The Flag Circle will be moved a little to the north to accommodate new buildings and will remain an iconic part of our campus identity.

    We plan to provide updates as the design process progresses. Please note that designs will only become final after approval by the BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees.

Going Forward

We continue to work on the design of the new McKay complex. We welcome your comments on how best to honor the mosaic, as well as other important moments in the history of the campus, that we can incorporate. Share your input using the following online forms:

McKay Building Stories and Memories McKay Complex Feedback and Ideas

We anticipate that final design will be completed and proposed to the Board of Trustees, whose officers are the First Presidency, by the end of 2023. If approved, we then go in for permitting and hope to start construction early in 2025. Construction will last three to four years.

Frequently Asked Questions


What will happen to the mosaic?

The personal stories of revelation and sacrifice associated with the founding of BYU–Hawaii are vital to our culture and heritage. The mosaic, the foyer, and the flag circle are some of the structures that represent those stories, and as such they merit special consideration. The Flag circle will remain but shift to the north. The mosaic and foyer will be preserved, but not in their current form. The mosaic and foyer have been studied carefully by teams of architects, engineers, and artists. The results of those studies indicate moving the mosaic in its entirety comes at great direct cost and with probability of damage and failure. These studies also indicate that designing and building campus around the mosaic and/or foyer is not feasible. In other words, doing so would impose severe constraints on the functional characteristics of the campus we can deliver for the next 60+ years of students.

Why are only portions of the mosaic being preserved instead of the entire artwork?

The Foyer has been condemned and out of use for nearly three years. The opportunity costs of designing the entire McKay Complex replacement around the mosaic are too significant to justify that approach. Experts have strongly advised against relocating the mosaic as a whole to the front of campus due to the considerable risk it poses to the preservation of the mosaic itself. Considering these limitations, experts have proposed that significant portions of the mosaic can be preserved with higher confidence, ensuring their longevity and ability to convey the intended story indefinitely. This option was discussed with the Board of Trustees, and they agreed that a welcome center that places Christ as the most prominent feature, with the mosaic portions and other displays complementing that was the appropriate path forward.

Has the Board of Trustees been consulted on these decisions?

The BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees has approved a plan to preserve and display significant portions of the mosaic in a new building dedicated to telling the story of President McKay and the flag raising ceremony. In addition, the building will have space dedicated to telling the story of the rich heritage of Laie and BYU–Hawaii. This includes the Church’s longtime commitment and investments, such as the contributions of students, faculty, and staff, the role of labor missionaries, and so many others who contributed to making BYU–Hawaii a special place.

Is this about politics?  

The mission of BYU–Hawaii is to prepare students of Oceania and the Asian Rim to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in their families, communities, chosen fields, and in building the kingdom of God. As the leadership of BYU–Hawaii, our stewardship is to God and to our students, present and future. We work closely with our Board of Trustees--led by prophets, seers, and revelators--to fulfill that stewardship. We do not look “left” or “right” for direction. We look “up” and seek the will of God through His prophets. 

  • The McKay Complex and the photo to a larger view of the whole building is based on a painting by Edward T. Grigware, which was inspired by this 1921 photo (from BYUH archives):

    The image is a black-and-white picture of a flag-raising ceremony with a group of students gathered around facing the American flag. Houses-like structures at the back, and also seen is the top rear view of the Laie Temple and the mountain.

    Pieces of the mosaic were cut in Italy and assemblies by Harold N. Boe, a building missionary. Labor missionaries assembled the mosaic and completed it just minutes before President McKay arrived for the 1958 dedication of the campus.

  • The 1921 flag-raising ceremony with Elder David O. McKay is an inflection point in the history of BYU–Hawaii. In 1955, President McKay spoke at the groundbreaking of the school, and talked about that flag-raising ceremony:

    My esteemed fellow workers, brothers, and sisters—this is the beginning of the realization of a vision I saw 34 years ago when one morning President Hugh J. Cannon, President E. Wesley Smith, others, and I witnessed a flag raising ceremony by students of the Church school here in Hawaii in Laie.
    President David O. McKay

    See Groundbreaking Dedication of CCH/BYU–Hawaii.

    The foundational symbol of BYU–Hawaii can be traced to that flag-raising ceremony. The vision of harmony among many cultures in an educational setting stayed with Elder McKay, and as president of the Church he was the key advocate for creating Church College of Hawaii.

  • The current McKay buildings have significant structural issues. Replacing the buildings rather than renovating them solves several problems: it’s more economical, it brings the buildings out of the flood plain, it allows the design of more effective and functional academic space, it provides for more efficient use of limited buildable land, and it makes it possible to operate campus while replacing nearly half of all the academic space on campus.

  • We have looked at how we could save the mosaic from many different angles:

    • Consultation with a mosaic art expert acquainted with Laie and the significance of the artwork.
    • Structural analysis of the current McKay Foyer.
    • Bids on moving the mosaic.
    • Designing around the mosaic/McKay Foyer.
  • We must be wise stewards of the resources the Board of Trustees provides. With all the requirements for safely and effectively planning and constructing campus it isn’t feasible to keep the mosaic as it is. The opportunity costs of keeping the mosaic where it is or moving it elsewhere are too great.

  • The flag-raising ceremony depicted in the mosaic is a foundational moment for the university. The mosaic has been a part of campus since 1958, and we want to honor it the best way we can. We welcome your ideas on ways to honor it and preserve its memory.

    We do care about history. In fact, this major construction project provides an important chance to honor our history and tell even more of the story of the university. The reason Elder McKay had such a spiritual experience in 1921 was that Laie had been a gathering place since 1865, when the Church purchased the land. One of the reasons the Church purchased the land here was that Laie was a pu’uhonua. Since 1955, Laie continues to be a gathering place, and President McKay’s prophecies are continuing to unfold. The new buildings will include representations of not only the 1921 flag-raising ceremony but many other foundational moments both before and after that important time.

  • We have been analyzing the mosaic as part of the McKay Complex for more than three years. We started talking about it with community and Church leaders as soon as it became clear that there were significant opportunity costs associated with keeping the mosaic. Here is a brief timeline:

    • October 2020: Structural assessments demonstrate that the McKay Building has severe structural deficiencies; evaluation of financial and opportunity costs associated with renovation or replacement of the McKay Complex begins.
    • February 2022: Board approves planning money for the replacement of the McKay Complex.
    • March 2022: Meeting with President Kauwe, Isaiah Walker, Kevin Schlag, Laie Community Association leadership (Verla Moore, Kela Miller), and Pane Meatoga to present and discuss benefits and opportunity costs of keeping the mosaic, including the likely conclusion that the full preservation of the mosaic would not be part of future plans.
    • April 2022: Preliminary design outcomes, including the benefits and opportunity costs of keeping the mosaic discussed with the Board of Trustees.
    • April 2022: Meeting with Verla Moore, Kevin Schlag, and Jim Brown to reiterate significant opportunity costs and that the full preservation of the mosaic was not likely to be part of future plans.
    • Aug 2022: Announcement in the Ohana Meeting that the mosaic is not part of the ongoing design planning and that significant efforts will be put into telling the story of the flag raising ceremony, and many other important parts of the history of Laie and the university.
    • Oct 2022: Statement released on website about the mosaic reiterating that the mosaic is not part of ongoing design planning and that significant efforts will be put into telling the story of the flag raising ceremony, and many other important parts of the history of Laie and the university.