AIA Honolulu Member Spotlight
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Welcome to our "Member Spotlight" where we will feature AIA Honolulu members and ask them 5 random questions. We hope this will be a fun way to get to know each other and maybe get some new ideas and tips. Let's Begin!

Deirdre Stearns, AIA, Associate at AHL (12.10.19)

  1. What do you like about working at firm/your company? There's a lot to like at AHL. I love the variety of projects we have in our four studios and the variety of people and expertise in our office. There is never a dull day and I am constantly learning.

  2. What was the single-most influential event in your lifetime? Living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I spent a year there with my husband working at an international architecture firm. It was a great year of traveling, biking and learning about different cultures.  I met some amazing people that year, and it's a time in my life that I will always remember very fondly.

  3. Can you recommend any good shows to see?
    Anything by the students at Sacred Hearts Academy.  I went with my family to see their performance of Frozen Jr. and I was blown away by the student's singing and acting talent!

  4. What’s your favorite thing to do on weekends?
    I love spending time with my husband and daughter.  Our weekends are action packed with gymnastics classes and swim lessons for my daughter, gym dates for me and my husband and beach days for the whole family.

  5. What is your favorite holiday and why?
    Christmas is a beautiful time of year. I love to relax with my family, travel and enjoy the lights, sights and sounds of the season. I find it's also a great time to reflect on the year and recharge.

Chad Okinaka, AIA, LEED AP, Principal with InForm Design (12.3.19)

  1. If you could write your own job title that best describes what you do here, what would it be? Most of my time is spent orchestrating and organizing the chaos on firm wide project operations and keen focus on providing client-centric services on projects I personally manage.  To a lesser degree, I’m also involved in firm marketing, proposals and other management tasks.

  2. Which individual, living or dead, would you like to eat dinner with the most? I am interested by science in general, but I have a particular interest in food science.  I would love the opportunity to have dinner with Alton Brown to pick his brain and partake in his great sense of humor.

  3. Where’s your favorite place in the world and why?
    Why only one?? 
    New Zealand for the stunningly beautiful scenery friendly people, Spain for the architecture (IE: the MUST see in person Sagrada Familia), also for the pace of life and the delectable tapas.

  4. What kind of music do you listen to?
    When I’m not forced to listen to kid’s movie soundtracks (IE: Moana) during the morning commute, I love Amy Lee voice from the band Evanescence.  (Search Evanescence Germany on YouTube and listen to the acoustic concert to see what I mean).  Other than that, I’m not too discerning – anything between Acoustic Alchemy and Korn, not so much Country or Rap.

  5. What is your dream car?
    Classic = circa 1955-1957 Porsche 356 Speedster; Modern = anything electric.

Theresa Youn, Allied Member, Specification Representative with LG Hausys America, Inc. (11.26.19)

  1. What do you like about working at firm/your company?
    Although LG is a multinational conglomerate, I love that our US-based subsidiary LG Hausys America work together like a HUGE family.  There is never a work day that goes by without an email, call or text from my colleagues in Atlanta to California.  It is great to be working for a global company with diverse group of supporting team members.

  2. What are you passionate about? Never Stop Learning.  I studied business in college with focus in travel industry management.  After working for Disney World and Sheraton Hotels, I threw myself into working for a local kitchen and bath remodeling company. There, I worked alongside with one of the best kitchen designers Shelley Tanner, CKD for nine years – picking up basic design skills including how to read construction drawings, estimating, writing up contracts, managing projects.  Once I joined LG Hausys as a Specification Rep, I needed to hone my skills to be fluent in construction project processes, project delivery and understanding specification.  When I told LG that I wanted to pursue CSI Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) certification, there were happy to support me.

  3. Where’s your favorite place in the world and why?
    As a hiking/backpacking enthusiast, I love being in the outdoors and camping in the wilderness.
    It’s nice to be able to get away from normalcy of life, to be isolated and be close to raw nature.  
    My boyfriend and I completed the Triple Crown of Hawaii Backpacking – Kalalau in 2014, Waimanu in 2015 and Haleakala in 2016.  It was during our trip to Waimanu in Big Island that I really fell in love with the remote valley with majestic waterfalls.  The 18-mile round trip is well worth the journey to experience this very special place.

  4. Beer or wine? Favorite?
    As Koreans, we love to drink… anything! My drink of choice is Tito’s or Haku vodka with soda and lime. If no vodka, Coors Light or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc will do.

  5. If you could splurge on 1 must-have item, what would it be?
    If Time can be captured in physical form, it would be to buy more Time.

Chris Gaydosh, Assoc. AIA, Designer with AHL (10.29.19)

  1. What's the most inspiring part of your job?
    I grew up with my dad in the Army Reserves but I never pursued a career path in the armed forces myself.  I knew that when I wanted to study architecture I wanted to focus on government and military projects as a way to show support of my dad through my own career path.  I wrote my thesis on government facilities in hopes that the future projects I work on will help support US forces.  Now I work on government projects that brought me to Guam, Okinawa, and Big Island that support local and international families in the armed forces.

  2. The most important thing you learned in college was…… The most important thing I learned in school is how important it is to make and sustain professional relationships.  I was connected to the firm I am at now by keeping in contact with some of the people I met in school.  I was asked to join a friend’s tennis team even though I didn’t play tennis at the time.  A few weeks later, my friend asked me to apply for a position at the firm she works at and I got the job!  For the past year, I have continued to play tennis (and work at the same firm) and my team won states in our division and we just got back from the national tournament in Oklahoma.

  3. Do you have a favorite board or card game?
    Cribbage has to be my favorite card game.  I used to play it with my friends and family when I would go camping all the time growing up.  One time I even made my own wooden cribbage board with custom 3D printed pieces I made from my printer.

  4. What’s the 1 dish you absolutely, positively will never, ever eat?
    I try to take up cooking as a hobby and I never say ‘no’ to trying a new dish.  My favorite is trying popular dishes from the new places I travel to no matter how exotic the dish might be.  The one thing I will not eat though is cucumber salad.  I am not a fan of the crunch and texture of a cucumber but I am a fan of pickles, especially with a hamburger.  It’s a summertime classic.  I think it might be a taste preference.

  5. Who would you most like to swap places with for a day?
    I love golfing and try to go to the course once a week.  I would change places for a day with golf legend Tiger Woods.  As much as I love working in the office, I find myself wanting to golfing during the day, especially being here in Hawaii where the weather is beautiful.  Like the saying goes, ‘A bad day of golf, beats a good day at the office”.

Sara Jehn, AIA, Partner and Architect with Agor Jehn Architects, LLC (9.3.19)

  1. What do you like about working at your firm/company?

    There are so many things I love about owning a firm with my business partner, Ron Agor! The flexibility is so amazing that the added responsibilities and stress of firm ownership makes it worth it. We also focus on being an active presence within the community. This has led to some truly grass roots efforts, self initiated projects, a broad range of issues, and projects with lasting relationships. I’m very grateful for all of this, it has been truly fulfilling. Our team members have been with us for years, many of them are friends or family prior to working with us. We’ve tried to create a firm culture that provides balance, tailored experiences, and a positive environment. I’m so grateful to have the responsibility of cultivating our preferred work environment. 

  2. The best piece of advice you were given was……
    1) The pieces of advice that seem to reappearing lately: 
    1. “You’re never as lost as you think you are”- My amazing Rally Aicha Des Gazelles and Rebelle Rally navigation coach Emily Miller, it’s as applicable for life as it is maps! 2) “Mistakes are usually made because you focus on the end result instead of the process” - a college professor, usually very true. 3) And lately Ive been revisiting a poem by Nayyirah Waheed: “You do not have to be a fire for every mountain blocking you. You could be a water and soft river your way to freedom too.” 

  3. Do you have a favorite board or card game?
    I’m a master at Minesweeper! I love that game so much! Logic only carries you so far, then you got to jump and take some risks! However, when it comes to board/card games I’m afraid I’m a black sheep here. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, but it’s not my first choice, ha! With that being said, my family and friends are huge board and card game fans. My husband convinced me to join a DnD campaign recently. It’s completely outside of my comfort level, and I was nervous about playing for a long time. Ultimately I’ve enjoyed the experience, and most of all the companionship. 

  4. Who is your favorite comedian?
    There’s so many that I love! Lately I’ve been on an Ali Wong, Thomas Middleditch, and Donald Glover kick. We saw Ali Wong when she came to town, it was an amazing show. Her Netflix shows are also amazing. Thomas Middleditch did this bit acting as a commentator for a NHL game, it was hilarious.

  5. If you could splurge on 1 must-have item, what would it be?
    The unrealistic one: a trip to space! Sign me up! 
    A little bit more realistic: a ranch. I would love a large wild ranch where my pets could be free range, and we could rescue more animals. Also, to be able to hike and explore the great outdoors right from your front door sounds like heaven.

Welcome Nicholas Haigler, Allied Member, Business Development Manager at Kieselbach Woodworks (8.27.19)

  1. What's the most inspiring part of your job?
    Working with a client from a basic idea/thought and turning it into reality. As much of a headache as it might seem during the process sometimes, the end result and a happy client makes it all worth it. Then you get the call from a historic landmark, ie. 'Iolani Palace for a project and it is like a big pat on the back knowing our quality and craftsmanship is top-notch to be invited to work on the only palace in the US. A place my daughter will grow up visiting with her school or friends and she can say "My daddy and the Kieselbach team built this!" We are the 'behind-the-scenes' guys helping make and keep Hawai'i beautiful. 

  2. What are three top things on your bucket list?
    1) Traveling with my daughter. I love to travel and she is my partner in crime / travel buddy. It is amazing to experience new places and cultures with her. As I mark off my list of countries visited, so does she.  2)  Fly in a fighter jet going Mach 2 or 3. Probably can thank 'Top Gun' for this one. 3) Being field side for a World Cup Championship game. The atmosphere must have your adrenaline through the roof for 90+ minutes. 

  3. What is the 1 thing in this world you are most proud of?
    My daughter Honoria. I am blessed with the most amazing little princess; who amazes me more and more everyday. 

  4. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
    I really enjoy food and trying new places to eat and inspirational dishes. Anything or place that is new (to me)!  I like finishing a meal and saying this is the best meal I have ever had; then topping it with another amazing meal.

  5. Beer or wine? Favorite?
    There is a time and place for both. It just depends on the mood at the moment. Beer: Tusker Lager (Africa), Honolulu Beerworks Pussy Grabs Back (Local). Wine: I like 'old world' wines. Orin Swift has been producing good vino and I enjoy the unique story each bottle has to tell.

Welcome Reece Bonilla, Assoc. AIA, Architectural Designer, Ferraro Choi (8.20.19)

  1. What do you do at your firm/company?
    I’m an architectural designer at Ferraro Choi.  I aid in the development of construction drawings, production of virtual reality experiences for client and project team, and natural ventilation studies. 

  2. What are you passionate about?
    I’m passionate about being physically active, especially via outdoor activities like surfing, hiking, and running with my dog.  I am a true believer in good health = happier life.  I currently run bi-annual Fitbit challenges at Ferraro Choi as part of our Wellness Program. 

  3. What are your top 3 favorite apps on your phone?
    Number one being Instagram (obviously) not only for catching up on family and friends but exposing myself to many other architecture projects around the world.  The other two are Spotify for my everyday listening and Yelp because who doesn’t like to look up good food!  And no I am not a Yelp Elite. 

  4. What was the best concert you ever attended and why?
    The best concert I attended was Kaskade at 2009 Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas.  The stage he performed on was unbelievably huge and was literally on fire, as in there were flames being shot out from it.

  5. What are you currently watching on Netflix?
    Currently my fiancé and I are watching The Umbrella Academy, Love + Death + Robots, and Santa Clarita Diet.

Welcome Melanie Islam, AIA, Melanie B.Y. Islam, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, LFA, Associate & Sustainability Director at MASON (8.13.19)

  1. What's the most inspiring part of your job?
    Challenging what sustainability means to my firm and community. At MASON, we know without doubt that sustainability is core to historic and existing building work – we protect the building which then preserves the embodied carbon once associated with manufacturing, transporting, and construction of the building. In our community we know that we should create efficient structures, move towards all electric buildings, conserve water and reuse alternate water, and protect natural resources. But, what else can/should we do as architects to get to a zero carbon, zero energy, or zero water model NOW and not tomorrow? Challenging how we practice, and questioning the frameworks which define the boundaries of our work is what inspires me on a daily. 

  2. The best piece of advice you ever been given was …?
    A wise woman once told me that you have the opportunity to learn much more from your failures than you do from your triumphs if you have the right perspective. I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, but having gone through a few failures/mishaps, I learned that perspective is truly the key to rebuilding a stronger self. 

  3. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
    I moved to India for one reason only – to work with Architecture for Humanity to rebuild after the 2004 tsunami. I didn’t know the language or culture and lived on my own for the first time in the middle of a forest! The only person I know, Purnima, lived 100 miles away. SL would say I was out on my own in the boonies with the snakes. The community cook, Amma as she would refer to herself as (and what I later learned was the word for ‘mother’ in Tamil), would cook simple but tasty meals for a diverse group of foreigners. Her food gave us, me, something familiar – opportunity to share a meal with people. This was the time we learned about one another, sharing cultural similarities and differences, and giving glimpses into our lives outside of India. Her meals, her cooking, her compassion, gave me new friendships and taught me about how the power food connects people. I’ve used what she taught me and my love for the region to cook elaborate meals or just tasty samosas for family and friends. 

  4. What’s your favorite cartoon character?
    Teenage mutant ninja turtles, heroes in a half-shell, turtle power! Born in the eighties, I fell in love with TNMT and liked Donatello the most. Don was always tinkering and exploring with new tech while the other turtles were ninjaing it out. He was the turtle that collected a handful of knowledge and was the ultimate problem solver. I mean, he knew plants could clean the air we breathe before it was a thing. Who knew??? Cowabunga!

  5. What are you most excited about in the coming months?
    USGBC Hawaii Build + Buy Green conference on Kauai. We hold this conference annually with the intent of inspiring our community by showcasing amazing built work and new technology in Hawaii. This year we’re touring Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s renewable energy portfolio – they’re leading our State in renewables; the State’s first resilient structure – LEED Gold laboratory at the National Tropical Botanical Garden; our State’s first LEED Platinum affordable housing projects; and rebuilding of Limahuli after the 2018 floods. We also have an amazing keynote speaker – Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA, LEED Fellow, who is an expert in resilient design and led HOK’s sustainability for 35 years. She will be speaking about Resilient Design in a Transformative Age. This is a conference that can’t be missed, and every year is unique. Visit usgbchawaii.org or email me direct, melanie@masonarch.com, for more information. Hope to see you there!

Welcome Ted Garduque, FAIA, Owner of Garduque Architects, LLC (7.17.19)

  1. What's the most inspiring part of your job?
    The ability to create and define space from nothing but my imagination. 

  2. Who was the most influential person in your life and why?
    My father. He taught me life skills such as hunting, fishing, outdoor crafts, how to work on old VW Beetles and Micro-bus and motorcycles ( I did my own tune ups, oil changes and maintenance); philosophical lessons on war and combat (taking and sending a bullet for a loved one), the importance of quality education. 

  3. What was your favorite TV show when growing up (or now)?
    Really don't have one. Did not watch a lot of TV. Read books instead. Or drew pictures. 

  4. Who would you most like to swap places with for a day?
    Adam, the first man created.

  5. What are your hobbies?
    Skeet and sporting clays is my martial art; working on my vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle; writing with specially tuned fountain pens made for architects. Thinking and day dreaming. There are no calories in it.

Welcome Jeremy Mendoza, AIA, Owner of Roli Poli Studio LLC (7.9.19)

  1. If you could write your own job title that best describes what you do here, what would it be?
    Marketing Extraordinaire. So much of our job relies on being able to sell your ideas and trust to a client.  Specializing in custom residential projects puts a lot of pressure on the architect because you start by selling yourself to people who may never have done anything construction related in their lives, with often tight budgets, and make something that they will inhabit for years to come. You sell your image and the name associated with that image to keep a steady flow of business and quality projects. It's in everything you do from the quality of your business cards to the way you dress in the first meeting with a client. You have to create a brand for yourself, as my company's name for instance, how forgettable is Roli Poli Studio. 

  2. What are the values that drive you?
    “To make life interesting. Each day has to be different, and design gives me that experience. I'm not a conformist and see myself pushing boundaries to achieve my goals. If we want to make changes to our environment, policies, and lives, somebody has to try and tip-toe across the ice. If I ever have to ask why.... then I ask, "why not?" 

  3. Which individual, living or dead, would you like to eat dinner with the most?
    Sir Elton John! If I'm going to sit down and have dinner with somebody, I want them to be personable, easy to talk to and able to make this moment a very unique experience. I feel most of the famous architects that are easy go-to's wouldn't be near as fun and exciting as having dinner with someone as colorful, bold, and funny as Sir Elton John. I need a little bit of cook in my life. 

  4. Your favorite Podcasts?
    When I'm not handling the communication intense aspects of the day, I'll usually have any of the following podcasts playing in one or both of my AirPods.

    99% Invisible: Extremely deep, moving, well-researched narratives on anything involving "design."
    RuPaul What's the Tee w/ Michelle Visage: My LGBTQ insert of the day. Full of life and fun, with moments of deep emotional insight.
    Why is This Happening w/Chris Hayes: Well-researched commentary and narrative on why we are living in the world we live in today.
    Stuff You Missed in History Class: For ANYBODY who loves history!
    Ridiculous History: Likewise... but with a side of ridiculousness.

  5. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
    Leaving my job to start my own firm. I NEVER thought of myself as someone to branch out and start something new, however, here I am navigating the coursing river of our industry. Every day is filled with energy, excitement, and fear, but I wouldn't prefer it any other way. Each morning I get to wake up and find each day is different.

Welcome Katie MacNeil, AIA, LEED AP, Principal of G70 (6.25.19)

  1. What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
    Hawaii State Hospital New Patient Facility, while it does not sound like a “cool” project, it is challenging, gratifying and much needed. In the realm of cool, with a capital C - a couple of projects hit the mark, the first is Camp Paumalu’s STEM Center for Excellence on Oahu’s North Shore for the Girl Scouts of Hawaii.  This facility will provide girls a space to experiment, innovate and push their limits in science, technology, engineering and math.  In Kauai, opening this month, are two new concept stores that we designed for Foodland. These concepts celebrate food and beverage through design to create great places for community gathering. Finally, a project I’m hoping will be open in time for my 50th birthday, is a total re-imaging of Waikiki Marriott’s third level pool deck. Here we’ve integrated new pool features, pool bar and outdoor dining to create a mauka to makai experience that can be enjoyed both day and night. 

  2. The best piece of advice you ever been given was…….?
    “Never fall in love with your plans.”  This has proven true both in the literal sense of architectural design but also in life as it conveys the message to be flexible, accepting of change, curious and above all else willing to try again. 

  3. What is the 1 thing in this world you are most proud of?
    Strange question, could be many things and no one thing.  I seek to be grateful.  In the realm of architecture, I’m grateful for the projects that I’ve been able to see realized.  I’m grateful for all who work with us to take dreams and make them real – from clients to consultants to contractors.  The pride comes when you see a community grow and be shaped by the places that we had a hand in designing. 

  4. Do you have any pets?
    No. I can’t count the feral chickens running through our yard, even though one looks to be descended from a chicken my son brought home from Kindergarten.  I tried my hand at raising chickens but realized soon enough that I’m still too much of a City Girl not cut out for it.  Right now, I’m trying to keep a few house plants thriving.

  5. What is your favorite book you ever read?
    I love reading, there’s too many – one book that has stuck with me was a recent read - Barkskins by Annie Proulx, one of my favorite authors.  It traces the history of forests from a time when North America was rich with virgin forests through massive deforestation. This is the undercurrent of all the stories told about a wide range of characters, descendants of the same two families, spanning over many generations.  It resonated as it takes interesting historical elements and marries them with the power of story telling. Through the lives of the characters, we read of personal choices, many seemingly beneficial at the time that lacked any foresight as to the long term consequences. The results are both devasting to environment and not surprising to the each of the families’ future generations.

Welcome Yuliya Bentcheva, AIA, Architect, Guerin Glass Architects (6.18.19)

  1. What do you like about working at your firm?
    I love the small team and unique environment of GGA Hawaii, we have a great office at the base of Diamond Head. Being part of a satellite office, we take on many different roles. Over the years, I have been involved with different phases and scales of projects as well as some of the challenges and opportunities of establishing our presence here - business development, community relationships, office management etc. I appreciate GGA's passionate work culture and the value we place on design excellence. 

  2. Who inspires you and why?
    Sheela Sogaard, the CEO of BIG Architects. I saw her speak at last year's AIA conference and was immediately captivated by her charismatic persona. Her drive and passion for her work and her belief that everybody should be rewarded for their hard work allowed her to build an incredible team, one of the most influential architecture firms today. Besides a successful business woman, she is also a mother of three. Her approach to achieving a work-life balance, not willing to sacrifice either, is very admirable. She is an inspiration to many young professional women. 

  3. Where’s your favorite place in the world and why?
    Haleakala National Park on Maui, I have started a tradition to do an annual birthday trip to visit. Hiking down into the crater to see the red and black landscape, sit in the silence, watch the sunset above the clouds and gaze at the amazingly clear night sky are incredibly surreal experiences. As our field of work requires quite a bit of focus, it is very important to come out of our typical routines and be able to see things in perspective. Spending a day above the clouds in a crater allows that. 

  4. What’s your favorite thing to do on weekends?
    Weekends are for finishing up work not completed during the week, no? Just kidding. The reason I moved to Hawaii was to enjoy the beautiful nature the islands have to offer. I love surfing and enjoying the beach with friends, going for a run around Diamond Head or hiking. As I have family in three different time zones, I use the weekends to check in with everybody.

  5. What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?
    I recently discovered my love for pottery and have been taking wheel throwing classes for the past year. I am not sure it counts as secret as I am not shy to share my excitement for it and gift most of the pieces I make. I find it very calming and fulfilling to create. My goal is to replace all of my store-bought dinnerware with custom pieces.

Want to Suggest a Member or Participate?

Feel free to let us know of any AIA members you’d like to see featured or if you would like to participate yourself. Just email Jacy L. Youn, Executive Vice President and let us know

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