CHARLES KANESHIRO is an architect with a passion for sustainable, educational and inspired endeavors that transform communities. Charles has served as G70’s president and COO since 2014 and is leading the firm during a pivotal time as it rebrands and expands its services and global reach.
WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
I have always been interested in the connection between nature and our built environment. I’m not sure if it was all the Boy Scout camping I did as a youth or growing up in Kaua‘i, where the idea of fun was running around outside rather than playing video games, but in my architectural career, I have endeavored to design projects that respond to land, environment and nature.
This is the reason I gravitated to the LEED program from its onset and it is what energizes me daily.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO FUTURE ARCHITECTS, BUILDERS OR DESIGNERS?
Love what you do. I think we are in a great profession. We are creating projects that impact our communities for generations to come. Think about it—the buildings that we are designing and building will hopefully have a life span of 50 years, far beyond our careers.
Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
WHICH OF YOUR PROJECTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
I am honestly proud of every project I work on, so it’s not possible to select just a few.
They are all special, otherwise I would not have taken them on. One of the most recently completed projects I’ve worked on is the Mendel Elementary School building in Tokyo, Japan. The driving vision was to shape the building to preserve 15 mature sakura trees that were slated for demolition.
The Sullivan Center at ‘Iolani School is the first CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance School) project in Hawai‘i. It’s a landmark educational project, incorporating 21st-century flexible collaboration, seminar space and makerspaces with state-of-art equipment. Also, the C-MORE Hale at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is the first LEED platinum laboratory facility in Hawai‘i.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR DESIGN PROJECTS? WHAT INSPIRES THE CREATIVE ELEMENTS OF YOUR WORK?
People and places—I travel abroad for work and leisure four to six times a year, and in my travels I find inspiration in the people I meet and places I visit. It could be having coffee in a café in Venice or walking through a busy street in Tokyo.
ARE THERE DESIGN CHALLENGES SPECIFIC TO HAWAI‘I?
I would say that the top three challenges are high construction pricing, permit obstacles and a lack of experienced architects to hire.
Some of this is cyclical and already well documented in the press. Some people have said that Hawai‘i also suffers from a lack of openness to new design ideas, but I have found that our clients are asking for creativity, innovation and culturally appropriate designs that push the envelope beyond the status quo.
WHAT ADVICE GOT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
Seek architects who are 20 years ahead of where you are and treat them to lunch or coffee. Ask them for advice. You will learn a tremendous amount from their experiences.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE CHANGING HONOLULU SKYLINE? DO MORE CRANES AND TOWERS EQUAL A HEALTHY BUILDING INDUSTRY?
Cranes and towers are an indication of a healthy building industry, but moreover, they indicate a healthy business community. I think the changing skyline is inevitable in a healthy growth environment, provided that the density is consolidated, setbacks are respected to preserve view corridors, and urban parks and open space are incorporated.
WHAT IS ONE QUESTION CONSUMERS SHOULD ALWAYS ASK THEIR DESIGN FIRM OR CONTRACTOR?
What is your track record for repeat clientele? This single criterion is very revealing about how a company provides services and handles client relationships.
G70 has a 93 percent track record for repeat clientele, which we are very proud of.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SUCCEED IN HAWAI‘I IN YOUR LINE OF WORK?
Developing key, long-lasting relationships and a growth mindset. These are important qualities in any career, but critical in our industry. Relationships with clients, consultants, contractors, vendors and the community have a significant impact on project implementation. It’s a popular phrase now, but I think having a growth mindset is also critical. Stagnant thinking can strike at any age.
In a world that is changing daily due to technology, influenced by instant, realtime news and rife with interconnected relationships, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels or assume the same formula will work every time.