Last Saturday, November 19th, our Hawai‘i Wildlife Center had its official opening, and Will Ruhl and Sandra Baron were fortunate to be able to be in Kapa‘au to represent Ruhl Walker Architects in paradise. We were joined by our Associate Architects and great friends Rhoady Lee and Aaron Spielman of Rhoady Lee Architecture + Design, our landscape architects Jason Umemoto and Nancy Cassandro of Umemoto Cassandro Design, the rest of our talented (and pro bono) design and engineering team, the general contractor and many of his incredibly generous sub-contractors (many if not most of whom had donated or discounted their time and material costs), and hundreds of neighbors, family, and friends.

The celebration began with a quietly beautiful and poetic blessing of the Center by Kumu Hula Raylene Ha‘alelea Kawaiaea, and also included some other visiting dignitaries who publicly declared their support, like John Buckstead of Governor Abercrombie’s office in Honolulu, who spoke on behalf of the Governor, who declared November 19th, 2011 as the official day of the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center. In between the speeches, entertainment was provided by students of the nearby Kohala Middle School, as well as the Kohala Hula group, Halau Kalaniumi Aliloa O Hawai‘i Nei, and topped off by the Grammy Award winning slack key guitarist John Keawe. There is always an element of bittersweet sadness at the end of a project, for clients and architects alike, but the focus of the day was on the path that led us to this point, and on the new beginning of the HWC’s important efforts to protect and rehabilitate the native flora and fauna of this magical place.

Though the project has a (small) punch list still to complete, the Certificate of Occupancy is in hand and “all” that is left to do is construct the pens and pools in the fenced-in rehabilitation yard for the expected endangered native species, build the custom pens for the recovery rooms, connect the custom hoses for the wash-rinse room (for handling any future oil-soaked animals in the event of an oil spill), install the rooftop solar photovoltaic array and the water-collection catchment system, deliver the triage room furniture, install building signage and educational displays, hire staff, and … raise some money for operations! We hope you will consider joining us in donating online to this wonderful and critically important environmental organization; just click here! Mahalo!

For additional information on the opening of the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center, see:

Hawai‘i Tribune Herald
Big Island Video News (great video, if you have time!)
Hawai‘i Wildlife Center Facebook
Ethan Tweedie’s online photo album

For additional information on the HWC architecture, see:

Hawai‘i Wildlife Center - project page