Goo leaves architectural firm but keeps designing
Donald Goo isn't really retiring any time soon, despite his departure from one of the state's most prominent architectural firms after nearly 50 years.
Donald Goo joined the architectural firm in 1959 when it was known as Wimberly & Cook. He became a partner in 1971, and the firm's name was changed to Wimberly Whisenand Allison Tong & Goo Architects Ltd.
Most prominent projects he has led in his 47 years at the firm:
» $40 million Sheraton Waikiki in 1971
» $100 million re-creation of the Hilton Hawaiian Village from 1982-1988
» $180 million Hawai'i Convention Center in 1998
» Graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1951
» Attended the University of Hawaii and University of Michigan
» Received a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Illinois in 1957
Goo, 73, has been a partner at Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo since the 1970s, when the firm landed what was at the time the state's largest architectural contract: a $40 million deal to design the Sheraton Waikiki.
He will continue to be a consultant for Wimberly while taking on a new role as professor and director of the University of Hawaii's Architectural Practicum Studio, a seven-year program that sends students to work in design firms across the globe to learn on the job.
"I've retired from my full-time job to another full-time job," he said. "There will be retirement (someday), but to another interest -- I won't retire to play golf."
Goo is currently working more than 40 hours a week leading the university program and developing ideas for the next line of work he is considering.
"I'm interested in doing a lot of things," he said, adding that he is preparing to do watercolor painting next. "I'm passionate about doing things I enjoy."
The Roosevelt High School graduate joined the Wimberly firm in 1959 and has led the design of numerous hotel projects, totaling more than 7,000 guest rooms.
His accomplishments include design of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in 1972, Sheraton Maui in 1963 and Ocean Villas at Turtle Bay Resort in 2005.
But the two projects he is most proud of are the $100 million renovation of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which lasted from 1982 to 1988, and $180 million design of the Hawai'i Convention Center, which opened in 1998.
"Most convention centers in the past have been big boxes with no windows and no artwork," he said.
Thinking out of the box with new and innovative ideas is what colleagues say has separated him from other leaders in the industry.
"He loves coming up with big ideas," said Howard Wolff, senior vice president at Wimberly. "The way he approaches life is with a child's curiosity and looking at how problems can be solved in innovative ways."
Those challenges include solving design problems and issues related to building a sense of place into his projects -- a talent Goo is known for in the industry.
Another passion of Goo's has been teaching those around him and leaving a strong foundation for the next generation.
Wolff recalls a favorite analogy that the senior leader instilled in his staff, characterizing himself as a jazz band leader as opposed to a symphony orchestra conductor, acknowledging that different people might take the lead at different times.
"He always tried to tap the best in each person," Wolff said. "(He would say) it's a team of professionals working together but not necessarily at all times playing the same notes."
Wimberly, which has 400 employees, is based on a leadership philosophy that Goo helped to build since he joined. The firm is now on its fourth generation of leadership.
"Most architecture firms don't survive their founder," Wolff said. "In large part it's a testament to the people who came before us. He viewed himself as a steward for the perpetuation of the company and the building of new leadership."