Wendie McAllaster, “Champion of Historic Landscapes”

June 11, 2016
Wendie inventorying a WWII-era, Japanese-built trench complex at Wake Island, a National Historic Landmark

Wendie inventorying a WWII-era, Japanese-built trench complex at Wake Island, a National Historic Landmark

By: Erin Higa

Hawaii Landscape Magazine (the magazine of the Landscape Industry Council of Hawai‘i) featured HHF’s First Lady and Principal, Wendie McAllaster, in the May/June issue on influential women of the Hawai‘i landscape industry. We are very proud of Wendie’s achievements. Read all about her!

Wendie McAllaster, ASLA, is well recognized in Hawai‘i for her expertise in and dedication to historic preservation. With an award-winning career that spans over three decades in landscape architecture, historic preservation, and land use and environmental planning, she is respected among her peers and industry partners and recently became the first woman principal at one of the largest planning firms in the Pacific, HHF Planners. Wendie also serves her community as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation, past-president of Junior League Honolulu, and volunteers for numerous HHF-sponsored community service projects.

How it all began…

Wendie knew two things growing up in Minnesota and Michigan: she wanted to become a designer and she wanted to be warm. Not long after graduating with her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Michigan State University (you can take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Spartan out of the girl), Wendie fulfilled both of her goals: she moved to Hawaiʻi in 1981 and began working for her uncle on the landscape design for Hilton Hawaiian Village’s new Tapa Tower.

A few years later, while employed with the international landscape and design firm EDAW, Wendie’s talent for writing was discovered, and a planner was born. During the 80s and early 90s, Wendie was immersed in all aspects of land use and environmental planning as well as designing residential landscapes. In 1995, Wendie joined HHF Planners and discovered immediately that the firm’s project diversity allowed her to integrate landscape architecture, physical and urban planning, and her impeccable writing skills. After many years growing with the firm, Wendie was promoted to Principal in 2014. One of her fellow Principals at HHF, Dave Curry, notes that “Wendie’s multi-discipline talents have been a critical factor in HHF’s success during the past fifteen years and will be a guiding force for the firm’s future.”

Historic Preservation Awakening

In the late 1990s, Wendie was involved with the initial redevelopment plans for Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, which indirectly led to her primary authorship of the Navy’s first Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan for Pearl Harbor. It was through this award-winning project that Wendie became aware of the need to understand the historical and cultural framework of distinctive landscapes in Hawai‘i in order to safeguard them for future generations. Wendie only half-jokingly says that, “before this eye-opening project, I ignorantly viewed the “ugly,” old, and rundown shops, warehouses, and hangars — as well as the acres of barren pavement (actually former seaplane ramps with Dec. 7th strafing marks) — through my landscape architect “beautification” lenses, rather than through the awareness and appreciation of the historical context of this unique landscape.” To acquire formal training in historic preservation, she attended classes at UCLA, obtained her Historic Preservation Certificate at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and became a Qualified Historic Landscape Architect and Qualified Historic Preservation Planner per the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards (National Park Service).

Over the last fifteen years, Wendie has established herself as the expert in Hawai‘i on the Cultural Landscape Approach to historic preservation. This holistic, “big picture” view of historic properties includes a comprehensive inventory and assessment of a variety of historic features and an understanding of relationships among both natural and manmade features to document how they have changed over time.

Wendie has managed over twenty-five preservation projects, most notably:

As part of the multidisciplinary team working on the first HAMP for the Navy in Hawai‘i, Wendie was responsible for the historical contexts and extensive inventory of cultural landscape features supporting CLRs for six Navy installations, which was the largest, most complex collection of facilities ever addressed in a CLR.

As the local champion for the cultural landscape approach in Hawai‘i, Wendie’s goals for the future include broadening awareness of cultural landscape documentation for those involved in development (architects, planners, landscape architects), government agencies that review proposals, and private and public landowners who are stewards of Hawai‘i’s historic and natural resources. Wendie actively promotes the importance and value of cultural landscape assessments in protecting Hawai‘i’s unique historical resources through public talks, such as her presentation for Landscape Architecture Month at the Hawai‘i State Library in April 2015. She welcomes opportunities to apply and share her expertise in historic preservation.

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