INSIDE HAWAII INC.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Deborah Rosenblum, new head of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo in Honolulu, sat Thursday in the lanai area of the Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki, which is one of the renovation projects she has worked on during her 10 years with the architecture firm.
Talent and timing help isle architect's career
Living in Hawaii has been a "great value" for the new managing director of Wimberly Allison
Question: How did you rise to managing director of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo's Honolulu office in 10 years?
Answer: I guess I'm what you would call a well-rounded architect. Most architects tend to be more left-brained or right-brained, and there's a few of us in the middle. I'm good at design work and I'm good at understanding the business of architecture. On different days I like different aspects of the work.
New job: Has been promoted to managing director of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo's Honolulu office. She's the first female managing director at the 60-year-old, locally based architectural firm.
Background: After she earned her master's of architecture at the University of Texas at Austin in 1989, Rosenblum came to Hawaii for her first job. She joined Wimberly Allison in 1995 as an intermediate designer.
Recent projects: Maui Memorial Medical Center, Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki, and the Ritz-Carlton/J.W. Marriott in Beijing.
Born and raised: Born in Davenport, Iowa; grew up in Washington, D.C.
Another reason I rose to the top, Wimberly Allison is 60 years old now. When the office opened a Newport Beach office, they had a lot of mid-tier architects in the next age bracket than me. They left and they went to Newport. When they left, it left a vacuum between the older, senior people here and the newer people. They left a vacuum that gave opportunities to some of us.
Q: What brought you here in 1989?
A: It was at a time when the islands were flush with work and they were short on architectural employees. There was another firm in town recruiting on the mainland. I had been in Australia and been doing an internship there, and tried to stay and couldn't stay. I said, "Hey Hawaii sounds really cool. I'll go there." I'm an ocean person. So I knew I couldn't miss.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I've paddled canoes for a long time and continue to do that. In fact, my team was second to Molokai last year, and I love to surf, too. I used to be a windsurfing instructor for Club Med some years ago. It makes living here a great value.
Q: These new high-rises condominiums in Honolulu -- is the architecture fitting for Hawaii?
A: Oh boy. It's interesting because, hark back to this imagery of Hawaii. First there is native Hawaiian hale kind of character and then there was Charles Dickey and Vladimir Ossipoff who had distinct style but scale was small.
The pressures of population growth and limited land force things to go up. The worst thing to do is try to replicate the small-home look with a tall building.
Tall buildings have a vocabulary that is less referential to Hawaiian style but is probably most appropriate for the mass that they are. It is very difficult to build high-rises that are regional in look. So for how they look, some are more successful than others.
Hokua is very attractive. It's good scale. You look at the ones behind Ward Centre ... to me those are totally inappropriate. They have no articulation and no expression. There's nothing that helps mask their scale. That's too bad. It looks more budgetary minded, as opposed to the one on Ala Moana. That has expressions of scale, of variety that mitigate size. It's a good expression of base, middle, top.
Most people don't know why something looks attractive, but there are reasons.
Q: Which project are you most proud of?
A: One was a house on Kuakini Street, and I think that was my favorite because it was for a three-dimensional artist and the composition was about a central spine with shed boxes attached to it. ... He was very willing to focus on the concept and understood how it would shape someone's experience.
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