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Don Hisaka

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Don Hisaka Obituary
Don M. Hisaka


Don Hisaka passed away peacefully in Berkeley, CA on Wednesday, February 20. His wife of 62 years, Michiko, was with him when he died peacefully at his home he designed and built.

Born on a farm on Bacon Island near Stockton, CA, Don rose to become one of America's most respected architects.

As a teenager during WWII he was placed in a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas, where he met his future wife. He returned to California, where he worked as a houseboy while earning his B.A. in Architecture at the University of California Berkeley. He then attended Harvard University where he earned a Master's degree. He also received a Fulbright Hays Fellowship in conjunction with a Wheelwright Fellowship which allowed him to travel and study architecture around the world.

In 1960 he opened his practice in Cleveland, OH and later moved to Cambridge, MA, where he was also a visiting critic at Harvard. During that time he created striking contemporary structures in Japan, Scotland, and across the United States.

His work included academic and office buildings, retail complexes as well as private homes. All shared an elegant simplicity of design, yet with enlivening and even playful details. He was proud to leave a legacy of "buildings that found a freedom out of post modernism."

Perhaps his best-known design is the Bartholomew County Jail in Columbus, Indiana (1990), a community noted for its collection of innovative modern structures designed by some of the world's finest architects, including Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Cesar Pelli.

In addition to citations in 70 leading architectural publications, his work has been honored over the years with over 50 design awards, including a Cornerstone Award for the best urban office building of 1991, and the Cleveland Arts Prize for Architecture.

In 1992 he returned to UC Berkeley as a Friedman professor in the architecture department. He continued to practice until several years ago.

Don was a collector of modern art, enjoyed tennis at the Claremont Club in Berkeley, driving his Porsches and playing with his grandsons on the beaches of Cape Cod and Hawaii.

He is preceded in death by his parents, brothers Art Hisaka and Harry Hisaka, and sister Toshiko Wakasa. He is survived by his wife Michiko, his sister Elaine Sato, daughters Mariko (Stephen) Parker and Miya Hisaka, grandsons Alex and Gannon Parker and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 10 from 1-5 at Takara Sake in Berkeley, California. Memorial contributions may be made to "The Hisaka Legacy Scholarship" c/o UC Berkeley Foundation, 2080 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94720-4200.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 3, 2013
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