Mana GardeN

"Mana is a spiritual quality considered to have supernatural origin—a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. "

Mana Garden is a permaculture design build project located on the north shore of Maui at Hale Akua Garden Farm.


The Business

In a tropical climate just off the ocean, Hale Akua (House of the Divine) is a high-end eco-resort retreat center & luxury permaculture farm spread across 4 adjacent properties.

My Role

This project was a co-creative design process between myself & 3 other individuals, primarily following my vision. This was my first built work.

Site context

Lower Mana Garden is an extension of a pre-existing garden, Upper Mana garden. Lower Mana Garden was a wild, unclaimed area of land covered in 6' tall cane grass. LMG was important as it was the intersection of multiple thoroughfares.

It needed to facilitate the connection & flow between these linkages; while also creating a beautiful moment as the User passes through or past the site. LMG was both visually & physically connected to a concrete path that led guests to the Villa. The Villa is the nicest rental house of all properties at Hale Akua.

vista from the VillA

The Villa (shown in banner image) lies just beyond Mana Garden. Mana Garden functions as a valuable connector for the User between the parking lot and the Villa.


Contextual Imagery - MAui

Mana - waterfall - smaller file - Maui.jpg

Site Diagram

Diagram explaining key features & design constraints on site.

Design Constraints

The new garden had to be:

 Aesthetically pleasing

Illustrate various permaculture growing techniques

Be functional & produce food

Act as a connector of various pathways while fitting multiple functions into simple design components

Be a gathering space for residential farmers

Fixed/ flex space that works as well for groups as it does for smaller groups by offering intimate sitting areas.

Ecological Flows - The garden had to absorb & direct the flow of water during flash floods & the wet season. Adjacent to the garden is a solar shack that holds both PhotoVoltaic batteries as well as all the dry seed on the farm.


Design Process

Clearing the Land

Mana Garden in the process of us taming back the jungle of tall grass. These images are taken after the majority of cane grass was removed. We kept valuable native species & maintained the soil profile. This pre-existing natural conditions informed our design.


Integrating Structure


Day of Project Completion

Sawn wood logs found on site, mark the upper entry point to Mana Garden. Stone cairns are used for decoration to mark the entry point while also concealing a tall water pump spout.


Masonry detail of garden bed rock wall responding to the grade of land with descending height.

The epicenter of Mana Garden. Shown is the Sacred circle, keyhole style gardens, raised food beds, bamboo sitting bench & stone steps. The materials of Bamboo & rock are functional while creating visual depth.


Design Summary

Response to site constraints & use of found materials

Both entrances are marked with specific material language for User way-finding

A central circular core that references Japanese zen gardens with a rock spiral & clean floor palette

Sawn logs are used to protect the base of vital tree species while also offering intimate sitting areas

Sawn bamboo & rock masonry stabilize the soil

Wood chips prevent the soil from being burned by the sun & can absorb rain many times per square foot during flash floods

The garden offers the User and farmer niche sitting areas to rest

The garden is a mix of perennial and intensive food production crops


User experience

Farmers, Hotel guests, high-end clientele - all are invited in

Lower Mana Garden allows for the User to rest while working in the garden or to enjoy being in the presence of vegetables & perennials when they aren't working.

The User is invited to sit & ponder in & amongst the perennial food garden. It is not typical for high production vegetable farming areas to provide a restful seat to witness the garden itself. Intensive vegetable farming can be back breaking work & so a moment of rest or shade from overhead trees can be meaningful. 


Feedback from Users & farmers of the land was overall positive. This garden organically became the new gathering point for farmers living on the land as it easily accommodates up to a dozen farmers for morning meetings. It is also well suited for smaller, more intimate hangouts & solo moments of reflection. One farmer frequently came here to meditate while another liked to sing & write songs after hours. 

While under construction, a flash flood caused us to regrade parts of the zen garden in order to more thoroughly direct the flow of water away from the solar batteries.

We planted trailing squash, nasturtium, society garlic and other perennials that were low maintenance and minimal upkeep.


3 months Later

A space that needed to be a connecting point from one garden to a walking thoroughfare became a place for human connection & community.