Promoting the power of design to citizens while addressing critical issues of the city.

Strawn+Sierralta designs, organizes, and launches the inaugural Building Voices Design Competition which is presented by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, School of Architecture and UH Community Design Center. The competition seeks innovative design solutions for Hawai‘i that draw knowledge from multiple disciplines. The BVDV Exhibition was displayed on Design Islands at the Building Voices Design Festival, which aims to collect diverse perspectives surrounding design as a platform for addressing the challenges and opportunities facing Hawai‘i.



The Building Voices Design Competition was a single stage international design competition seeking innovative solutions that addressed Hawai‘i’s unique geographic location, cultural richness, global visibility, and ecological diversity. Strawn+Sierralta developed the 'Design Framework for Hawai‘i’s Built Environment' based on conversations held with the community in Hawai‘i that the competition brief is based upon.

Design solutions were to address multiple topic areas, including: Housing for All, Food Autonomy, Resource Independence, Community Centered Mobility and Healthy Citizens. Each entry was evaluated with four sustainability lenses: Social, Ecological, Economic and Indigenous Culture.

The competition sought new ideas for buildings, environments, landscapes, community programs, infrastructures, product designs, network concepts, service design offerings, transportation solutions, among others. It was free and open to all designers: students and professionals, including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, service designers, graphic designers, industrial designers, artists, inventors and citizens alike.

The 2017 Building Voices Design Competition was presented by University of Hawai’i School of Architecture and the University of Hawai’i Community Design Center, in partnership with AIA Honolulu, ASLA Hawai‘i, APA Hawai‘i, AIAS Hawai‘i, US Green Building Council of Hawai‘i, and the University of Hawai‘i Office of Sustainability.

Download competition brief HERE



A total of 111 visionary proposals from Hawai’i, continental US, and abroad were submitted. A jury of notable community members, design leaders, academics, and public officials selected three winners, six honorable mentions and eight citations. The jury members included:

  • Xavier Vendrell, Acting director of Rural Studio at Auburn University.

  • Rebecca Buck, UX Strategist at Amazon Web Services.

  • Alisa Weinstein, Senior User Experience Researcher at Uber.

  • Daniel Vasini, Studio Director for West 8 New York.

  • T. Annie Nguyen, Experience Designer & User Researcher in Washington, DC.

  • Healoha Johnston, Assistant Curator of Arts of Hawai‘i at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

  • Clément Blanchet, Founder of Clément Blanchet Architecture in Paris.

  • Joseph J. Ferraro FAIA, Founding partner at Ferraro Choi and Associates Ltd.

  • Kūha'o Zane, Director of Design and Marketing for Sig Zane and founder of Sig Zane Kaia.

  • Aljosa Dekleva, Co-founder of Dekleva Gregoric Architects based in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

  • Andrew Y.K. Tang, Transit Oriented Development Senior Planner at the City & County of Honolulu.


Winners were unveiled at the Hawaii State Capitol on Earth Day.

Winners of the Inaugural Building Voices Design Competition were announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2017, at a packed event in the open-air rotunda of the Hawai‘i State Capitol. Xavier Vendrell, acting Director of Auburn University’s Rural Studio, handed out awards alongside the competition co-chairs Karla Sierralta and Brian Strawn. 




'Outside House'

by Erin Moore / FLOAT Architectural Research and Design

'Outside House' is an example of using design to make a place where the land comes first. It is two small pavilions, the “mauka” and the “makai”, that structure space for living outside on agricultural land in upcountry Maui. 

Both pavilions are demountable. The steel frame is fabricated as a kit out of pieces that can each be lifted by two people, erected without heavy equipment, and bolted into place. 

Living outside has health benefits for people of all ages: lowered stress, improved circadian rhythms, increased physical activity, exposure to plant and soil microbiota, and access to local plant foods. Possible models for land stewardship for urban and agricultural sites include habitat restoration at all scales, community land trusts, conservation easements, and permaculture. 

The Outside House can be fitted with rainwater collection, solar panels, and a composting toilet for complete self-sufficiency. Integration into an ecological whole has immeasurable value.

Photography by Olivier Koning 

FIRST PLACE:  'Outside House' by Erin Moore / FLOAT Architectural Research and Design
The design is developed around the understanding that the home is not only our private interior space, but all the land, no matter where you live.
— Xavier Vendrell, Rural Studio, BVDC Jury Chair
CITATION:  ‘Whitmore Community Food Hub’ by Linda Komlos & Stephen Luoni / University of Arkansas Community Design Center

CITATION: ‘Whitmore Community Food Hub’ by Linda Komlos & Stephen Luoni / University of Arkansas Community Design Center

HONORABLE MENTION:  'Ala Hele Re-Imagined' by Benjamin Griffin / AHL

HONORABLE MENTION: 'Ala Hele Re-Imagined' by Benjamin Griffin / AHL

SELECTED FOR EXHIBITION:  'MANA Mobility Hub System' by Derrick Choi / Populous

SELECTED FOR EXHIBITION: 'MANA Mobility Hub System' by Derrick Choi / Populous