Michael Chu '77, Landscape Architecture
Every day, Hawaiians can see landscape architect Michael Chu’s designs and creativity in the newest Lowe’s home improvement store, seven Costco locations, and – Chu’s favorite – the renovated Hawaii State Library.
In fact, Chu, a ’77 landscape architecture alumnus, drives past the historic library building almost every day. “I eyeball it every time I drive by, and it’s looking great,” he says. “It’s a constant reminder of the work I have accomplished, and it came out pretty damn good.”
The design aesthetics isn’t the only aspect of the projects that Chu is proud of. As founder of the consulting firm LP&D Hawaii, he not only develops landscape designs but he also consults in many of the related fields such as regulatory permits, traffic flow and environmental impacts – issues that traditionally don’t fall under the purview of landscape architecture.
“I’m like the utility player, a one-man shop,” says the alumnus, who opened his firm in the early 1980s. “I like landscape architecture not only for its ability to shape the environment, but its diversity to get involved in what appear to be unrelated fields. Landscape architecture is not just a matter of preparing a landscape, but doing planning work as well.”
Reflecting on his career, Chu is grateful to Cal Poly Pomona for providing him an education and has made plans to give to future students the same opportunities that he received. He and his wife, Yetta, have made a planned gift of $350,000 to support landscape architecture majors, with preference to those from Hawaii. The Michael S. and Yetta L.C. Chu Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to upper-division students who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need.
“I’m grateful to Cal Poly Pomona. They accepted me as an out-of-state student, gave me a good education, allowed me to become licensed here in Hawaii as a professional landscape architecture,” Chu says.
A veteran of the Army Rangers during the Vietnam War, Chu also understands the significance of outside support. “I’m grateful for the G.I. Bill. I wouldn’t have made it without the G.I. Bill.”
After he was wounded in action in 1969, he returned to Hawaii with the goal of working in design. Chu applied to every landscape architecture firm in Honolulu and was hired as an entry-level junior draftsman. There, he met several Cal Poly Pomona landscape architects, who, along with his boss, encouraged him to continue his education.
“The fact is that guys I met were all Cal Poly Pomona graduates,” he says. “In my mind, Cal Poly Pomona was the place to go. And it still is.”
As a student, Chu admired many of his professors, especially Professor Jere Stuart French, who served as the department’s first chair.
Chu returned to Hawaii after graduating from Cal Poly Pomona and soon opened his own firm, offering a comprehensive set of skills and services. Branching out to other fields has brought Chu much success, and he encourages students to do the same.
“Planning, entitlement – all of those are very closely related to landscape architecture,” he says. “Landscape architecture students should not focus on only landscape architecture design but also on how their skills interface and can assist in other fields.”
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