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December 4, 2021
  • First cohort celebrates its graduation

UH Mānoa awarded its first seven master’s degrees in landscape architecture in May 2021, a vision realized after years of planning.

To celebrate this new graduate program and to recognize excellence within it, the school of architecture presented the inaugural Thomas S. Witten, FASLA Pulama ‘Aina award to Shun Ishimine.

The award was established by Tom Witten, chairman emeritus and principal of PBR HAWAII & Associates, a local landscape architecture and planning firm.

“Many in the profession have assisted in this effort to establish a landscape architecture degree program at the University,” says Witten. “The goal was to provide an opportunity for students in Hawai‘i to earn a degree addressing the unique environmental and cultural aspects of our profession here and in the Pacific region.”

Diverse, talented first cohort

Prior to entering the program, members of this first class came from a diverse educational and work experience in graphic design, environmental science, dentistry, architecture, software engineering and environmental design.

Professor and program director Judith Stilgenbauer says, “It’s quite common in graduate-level, first-professional design programs to see a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise.

"We loved having such a diverse, talented and mature first cohort.”

Until this year, students seeking careers in landscape architecture in Hawai‘i had to earn degrees in the continental United States, hoping to return home for employment. PBR HAWAII, for instance, typically had to recruit entry-level employees from other universities, hiring two or three recent graduates each year as the profession grew.

Witten says, “These UH Mānoa graduates are now well prepared for careers in landscape architecture or allied professions with a great foundational education emphasizing our island ecosystem and community design issues, such as resilience and sustainability.”

Awarded for relevance, uniqueness, complexity

“PBR HAWAII and Tom Witten are long-standing supporters of the School of Architecture and the Master of Landscape Architecture program,” says Stilgenbauer. “Tom has been on the school’s advisory council for many years, and the firm endowed the PBR HAWAII student scholarship when the firm celebrated its 40-year anniversary. It added to the fund in 2020 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.”

The selection committee noted Ishimine’s capstone project, “Restoring Symbiotic Architecture,” stood out in relevance, uniqueness of approach, complexity and resolution. Ishimine examined modern-day interpretations of Hawaiian fishpond types and their uses in contemporary, sustainable urban ecological design.

When local firms establish funding partnerships with related programs at UH, the benefits to island professions and Hawai‘i’s students like Shun Ishimine are clear. Emerging grads at the beginnings of their careers are already connected to leaders in their fields, while employers are confident the newly trained talent is ready for the exciting rigors of their new professions.

Shun Ishimine, inaugural recipient of the Thomas S. Witten, FASLA Pulama ‘Aina award

Shun Ishimine, inaugural winner of the Thomas S. Witten, FASLA Pulama ‘Aina award

Tom Witten, FASLA

Tom Witten, FASLA

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