The inaugural Building Voices launches at the Hawai’i State Capitol on Earth Day 2017.

BUILDING VOICES is an ideas + action festival that collects diverse perspectives surrounding design as a framework for addressing the challenges and opportunities facing Hawai‘i. Events include: a symposium, an international design competition, a traveling installation, partner events, and a forthcoming publication. BUILDING VOICES is 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.


The first BUILDING VOICES DESIGN FESTIVAL gathered new visions for Hawai’i alongside 40 local and international leaders in design and policy.

Participants in the symposium addressed and debated the diverse urban, environmental, and ecological challenges facing our state and region.

Keynote lectures included Susannah C. Drake, DLANDstudio, Brooklyn, NY;  Pierre Bélanger, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA; Tim O'Loan, AECOM, Melbourne, Australia; and Xavier Vendrell, Rural Studio, Auburn University, Newbern, AL.

Speakers, panelist and distinguished guests included Brian Court AIA, Miller Hull Partnership; Dan Pitera FAIA & Ceara O'Leary, Detroit Collaborative Design Center; Chris Rogers, Point 32; Robert Iopa AIA, WCIT Architecture; Andrew Tang, Honolulu City & County TOD; Philip White AIA, WhiteSpace Architects; Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, Hawai’i; Tyler Dillon, Layton Construction; Jesse Wu, HUD; Adam Woltag AIA & Pauline Souza AIA, WRNS Studio; Mark Tagawa AIA, Perkins + Will; Ryan Sullivan AIA & Stephanie Hsu AIA, G70; Ramsay Taum, PBR Hawai'i; Konia Freitas, UHM Hawai'inuiakea School of Knowledge; David Lassner, President, University of Hawai’i and many more.


Xavier Vendrell, of Auburn University’s Rural Studio and Jury Chair for the competition, handed out awards at a packed event in the capitol's open-air rotunda.

A total of 111 visionary proposals from Hawai’i, continental US, and abroad were submitted to the BUILDING VOICES DESIGN COMPETITION. The single stage, international design competition sought innovative solutions that address Hawai‘i’s unique geographic location, cultural richness, global visibility, and ecological diversity.

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.


A public exhibition of select competition entries was displayed on DESIGN ISLANDS, a traveling installation designed by Strawn+Sierralta and built by a team of over 30 University of Hawai‘i architecture students and alumni.

DESIGN ISLANDS is a unique display system composed of eight modular benches, each representing an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. The islands hold vertical frameworks for the display of artwork. DESIGN ISLANDS are reconfigurable, portable, placemaking devices that frame public space and provide communal seating for both indoor and outdoors installations.  

DESIGN ISLANDS will be popping up in locations across Hawai‘i, having already also been displayed at AIA Honolulu’s Center for Architecture and the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s School of Architecture.


BUILDING VOICES is a framework for community engagement with design. Partner events expand the footprint of the festival and welcome more perspectives into the conversation.

AIA Honolulu's Center for Architecture hosted Dan Pitera, FAIA and Ceara O'Leary from the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), part of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, to present their work to a standing room only event. The DCDC was the winner of the 2017 AIA Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award.

The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) Hawai’i chapter previewed DESIGN ISLANDS and the 2017 Building Voices at AIAS Paper Architecture Night in the courtyard of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s School of Architecture. 

Arts at Mark's Garage held a BUILDING VOICES event benefiting Sustainable Coastlines and Artists for Social Justice that displayed design work by UHM SOA faculty work, including Tadpole Studio's Janice Li and Bundit Kanisthakhon.


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