Dan Chun, FAIA has been the tireless legislative conscience for AIA Hawaii activities; guiding, counseling and advocating for a better built environment with legislators for nearly three decades. Legislation promoting the architectural profession, and as small businesses, is vital to planning and designing that better environment. Chun sincerely believes that if Hawaii architects are politically “strong” this strengthens the architectural profession in Hawaii and that can benefit other states as well. Conversely, if a state’s architects are “weak” this diminishes the profession. His consistent public advocacy has strengthened architects in the entire country.
Dan was born in Honolulu in 1950. His father was the accountant for Yat Loy Company; the dry goods and clothing store established by Dan’s great-grandfather in 1898. His mother was a home-maker; having received an English degree from the University of Hawaii. There she met Dan’s father while she was painting en plein air on the Manoa campus. Early years were spent in Kaimuki and Waimanalo Beach.
Educated at the local public school, Saint Patrick Parochial School and Punahou School; his favorite subjects were persuasive writing in English class and three years of history. High school lessons became the foundation for his later work in legislative advocacy.
Chun spent six years in Los Angeles studying architecture at the University of Southern California. By his own admission he was an average student. His favorite subject was History of Architecture; how changing attitudes about culture and place influenced building design of differing eras and places. He spent much time at Alpha Rho Chi Fraternity, the national social and professional architectural fraternity that annually awards APX Medal to a graduating student who gave the most service to their respective school of architecture. Members from freshmen to graduate students lived in the fraternity house; often sharing the “all-nighter” work of model building and drawing..
Returning to Honolulu each summer, Chun sought training opportunities at local architecture offices. He came with very elementary drafting skills learned from night class at the Los Angeles office of USC alumnus Bernard Zimmerman FAIA (1930-2009 an “activist architect” who believed the purpose of architecture was to change the world). USC never taught hand drafting, the technical skill without which no student could hope for summer employment. Zimmerman offered free drafting classes so USC architecture students might have that opportunity. In retrospect, Dan considers that night class as the start of his professional career.
Dan first worked summers for Peter Hsi; Honolulu structural engineer, architect and inventor of cost-saving construction technology. There he absorbed valuable lessons about structural efficiency that could be transformed into more budget for the architectural portion. His final summer internship was at Lemmon, Freeth, Haines & Jones (predecessor firm to Architects Hawaii Limited) where he drafted plans for the Hawaii State Capitol Eternal Flame under the leadership of Frank Haines, FAIA (the 2000 Medalist). Upon graduation Dan returned to the firm, spending three years working mostly under design chief Joseph Farrell, FAIA.
In 1981, Dan partnered with Dwight Pauahi Kauahikaua and established the Kauahikaua and Chun firm. Together, they helped to bring the Hawaiian Renaissance that was reappearing in arts like hula, music, arts and crafts to architecture. Some examples of how they imbued our islands with cultural design can be seen in these buildings:
- Laniekuhonua Hawaiian Culture Center
- Bernice Pauahi Bishop Chapel at the Kamehameha School Kapalama campus
- Kamakakuokalani Hawaiian Studies Building, University of Hawaii Manoa
- The Kulana Oiwi Molokai Education Center
- Stan Sheriff Arena
- Liliuokalani Trust’s Children’s Center, Lihue, Kaua’i
In 1991, Chun played a major role in the formation of AIA Hawaii State Council, mandated by the national American Institute of Architects when AIA Maui wanted its own chapter to adopt county-oriented public positions. With prompting from Carol Sakata, FAIA (president of predecessor Hawaii Society of AIA), Chun was appointed to the bylaws task force to formalize a legislative advocacy process. At its first meeting, members asked Ernie Hara, who had the most experience, to chair the Task Force. To which Ernie said “No. Dan is the youngest person here, so he should be the chair.” Thus began some 30 years of service to Hawaii’s architects. Chun served three terms as initial Secretary, later as Vice-President and President of the organization – in the latter role twice, from 1995-1997 and from 2013-2016.
AIA has always relied on its own members to represent the profession at the state legislature. Beginning in 1993 Chun began serving as the volunteer legislative “lobbyist” for AIA. Chun represent AIA on several licensing bills such as the passage of SLH 1997 Act 263 requiring intern development programs and revising internship requirements to coincide with University of Hawaii School of Architecture degrees like the new architectural doctorate. Hawaii remains one of only 11 states that allow someone without an accredited degree to take licensing exam. Dennis Toyomura, FAIA, a mentor, counseled Chun never to change this; Toyomura remembered Territorial days when opportunity was more restricted, often along ethnic and economic class divisions.
Toyomura offered advice such as “Every morning when you wake up, you look around to see who is threatening architects today”, “Numbers are good for politics” and “You have to have fun doing this or you will not succeed.” He and Chun used to delight in getting legislative committees to defer undesirable bills such as omitting requirement for an architect to sign intern’s application for licensure. One afternoon, two bills critical to AIA interests were being heard at the same time. Toyomura went to support one; support being always the bigger challenge. Chun went to oppose the other; opposition being the easier fight. They won both “battles” without any assistance from broader membership. In successful advocacy many more undesirable bills are quietly “killed” in comparison with relatively few beneficial laws passed after decades of service.
Chun developed and deepened important relationships between architects, engineers, and the construction industry related to advocacy efforts. Although not always on the same side, the respect between all three entities and discussions prior to submitting testimony is because of Dan’s work.
Hawaii architects inherited a legacy of laws supporting their profession from earlier generations of architect-advocates. With the passing of that generation of leaders, Chun not only successfully defended the strong foundation of architect-friendly laws. He built on that foundation by passing new legislation responding to new challenges to the profession.
As a natural extension of his local advocacy efforts, Chun has served as Hawaii’s representative to the national American Institute of Architects State Government Network for over two decades. There he willingly shares his experience with colleagues engaged in advocacy on behalf of all architects in the United States.
1999 Session Laws of Hawaii (SLH) Act 70 – Local Architect-Engineer services on projects outside Hawaii exempt from Hawaii gross excise tax (GET)
2003 SLH Act 52 – Qualifications-Based-Selection (QBS) for public procurement of design services established
2005 SLH Act 2 – Mandatory continuing education for architect licensure renewal
2006 SLH Act 96 – Green building requirements for State buildings
2007 SLH Act 246 – Bans uninsurable defense clause for state/county projects under a million dollars
2007 SLH Act 82 – Establishment of the State Building Code Council
2011 SLH Act 211 – Design build competitors limited to three teams to reduce business overhead costs for architects, engineers, and construction contractors pursuing design-build projects. Provides financial compensation to unsuccessful offerors.