HHF Summer Intern: Emerson Goo

August 16, 2021

Aloha mai kākou,

My name is Emerson Goo, HHF Planners’ Summer 2021 intern. I’m a landscape architecture undergrad at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, though I have been at home in Honolulu throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many businesses running at reduced capacity during this time, I was very grateful to intern with HHF over the past five weeks. Landscape architects Tomoko Naka and Rick Quinn and planner John Hagihara generously shared their time and expertise with me. At HHF, I made it a goal to learn about aspects of landscape architecture that aren’t well covered in my academic curriculum: things like irrigation and lighting design, project management, and construction administration. I also wanted to learn about HHF’s planning projects, as I am considering a career in environmental planning.

On the landscape architecture side, I developed irrigation plans for a private residence and a large healthcare project, both on Oʻahu. While I’ve had rudimentary training in irrigation design, I have never gone through the process from start to finish, and through these two projects I gained an understanding of how an irrigation design is continually revised and refined. Along the way, Tomoko shared AutoCAD shortcuts and tricks that helped me speed up my workflow. Just by watching her, I picked up on so many useful features I didn’t even know AutoCAD had! I also created two bench designs for another residential project, and drafted construction documents for both. I practiced my 3D modeling skills by doing mockups of each bench in SketchUp, which forced me to think about the constructability of the benches and how they would be assembled.

On site visit with Rick.

Site visits were an important part of my internship, and both Rick and Tomoko took me to projects in different stages of construction. A notable visit to a project in Waimānalo showed off Rick’s close eye for detail. The contractors had found a large boulder on the property and wanted Rick to see if it could be used in the landscape. Rick positioned the boulder by a tree that had been transported to its current location from elsewhere on the site, and delicate handling by the excavator operators was required to avoid damaging the tree. Rick studied the boulder to ensure it was at the right height and in a stable, aesthetically pleasing orientation. Clear communication, attentiveness, and an ability to improvise are needed to address issues and opportunities that arise on-site.

On the planning side, I worked with John on Hele Kākou Kahului, a Complete Streets implementation project in Kahului, Maui. One of the project’s goals is to produce a signage design and wayfinding manual for pedestrians and cyclists that can be used in Kahului and across Maui County in general. Signage and place markers that are readable and culturally responsive are important in establishing the character of a community. I researched the history, ecology, and arts and culture of Kahului to produce recommendations for design concepts. This was an ideal project for me to contribute to, as I had done similar work in a studio course last spring, where I designed signage and proposed sign placement locations for the town of Mariposa, California, and trails along the Merced River.

Five weeks was a short time to cover so much ground, but I am very happy with everything I was able to accomplish! Even with most of the office working remotely, I got to know other staff members through weekly meetings and volunteer activities. Everyone’s willingness to answer questions made HHF a welcoming place to work. The lessons I’ve learned will undoubtedly help me as I enter my penultimate year of school, but it’s the friends and mentors I’ve gained here that I’ll especially cherish.

Volunteering at Helping Hands Hawai‘i’s warehouse!

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