Sharing Culture In Design

By Robert Iopa
Wednesday - May 21, 2008
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Robert Iopa

By Robert Iopa
President of WCIT Architecture

When we started out, WCIT Architecture was just the four of us - Eugene Watanabe, Kevin Chun, Stan Takaki and myself - working out of our home offices. We all had previously spent many years working on overseas projects, so we came together in 2000 to bring our international design experience home to the Islands. Eight years and 40 employees later, this vision still serves as the basis on which our firm stands today.

The landscape of Hawaii has seen dramatic changes over those eight years, and many hotels and resort properties across the Islands are currently under extensive redevelopment and/or renovations. With predictions that Hawaii’s economy is slowing down while tourism and real estate level off, construction and development are sure to be affected. To survive, we need to support local interests and make sure that the unique message of Hawaii and its culture stands strong.

Today’s architectural trends are not solely focused on function and aesthetic, but on their impact on the greater community as well. Inescapable messages of “go-green” and “sustainability” are prevalent throughout virtually every industry these days. The truth is environmentally conscience design solutions have always been a fundamental process in architecture.

I believe, in addition to that responsibility, it is equally important to create architecture that appropriately celebrates its cultural environment as well, adding value to the community it serves. This is what distinguishes WCIT Architecture and is a key component to our success.

When visitors come to Hawaii, they expect to feel like they are in the Islands, not in some resort on the Mainland. WCIT has been successful in educating our clients in the importance of cultural accuracy and respect for our land and its people. Hawaii’s unique architectural vernacular and the experience each visitor takes home with them is a critical design component that we insist on, starting at the beginning of a project rather than a design afterthought.

Robert Iopa with the team at WCIT Architecture
Robert Iopa with the team at WCIT Architecture

Current projects such as the renovation of the Sheraton Waikiki and Royal Hawaiian Hotel or the construction of the The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences at Kapalua Bay not only go through a rigorous process of design and development, but every aspect of cultural significance and environmental sustainability is examined. By combining creative design and extensive experience in architectural documentation and construction, we deliver solutions that are practical yet environmentally and culturally relevant. Form does not always have to follow function, but can be balanced to create architecture that satisfies the needs of our clients as well as tell the “story” of its surroundings and its history.

As an architect and businessman guiding WCIT Architecture for the last eight years, I work tirelessly to make sure every one of our projects exceeds our clients’ expectations, but more important, I am committed to my staff of employees and to the community that we call home. My hardworking team of architects and project managers share this ethic. They are the best of the best, educated and well-trained, dedicated and hard-working, passionate about their beliefs and committed to preserving our Islands’ natural beauty and heritage. Our staff is the foundation on which WCIT Architecture stands.

As a number of our resort projects are nearing completion, we have been fortunate in that our hard work has brought many local and national accolades - the most recent being recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine‘s HOT 500 list as the 50th fastest growing company in America. While this is a fantastic achievement, it’s one that WCIT could not have fulfilled if our team did not have the knowledge and desire to instill Hawaiian culture into design. We care about the projects we undertake, the people it will impact and the land that is here to sustain us.

Doing business in Hawaii is both challenging and rewarding, and by celebrating our heritage through thoughtful design, we humbly give back to our community and share this great culture with the world.


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