Our Team

John August Black AIA

Inspired by the New York City skyline just beyond his bedroom window, John’s passion for architecture began as a young child. His formal architectural education began at the progressive New Jersey Institute of Technology’s two-year pre-architecture program. Upon completion of this program, John sought a radically different environment. Drawn to the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Sonoran Desert, he continued his studies at the University of Arizona.

Once awarded an architectural degree, John journeyed back east to begin his professional career in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Office experience began with a unique opportunity to work on the geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller, followed by apprenticeships with two noted Boston architecture firms. Before long, however, recalling his childhood dream and answering the need to fully express his creativity, John founded Lapis Architecture.

After the successful growth of Lapis Architecture, John discovered that his greatest satisfaction came from running a smaller firm with a strong focus on design quality and client service. Taking the experience gained from twenty years of practice, he traveled five thousand miles to the Hawaiian Islands, where he established his ideal architectural design firm, Lapis Design Partners.

Susan Anne Ishikawa

Susan Anne Ishikawa started her professional education with the study of architectural history at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She returned to her home state to continue her studies at the University of Hawaii, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in the history of art and architectural design.

Susan began her professional career in affiliation with several noted Honolulu architectural firms before establishing her own practice in 1982. Ten years later, looking to broaden her experience, she relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and founded the interior design firm Studio 115. Following several very successful years, she merged Studio 115 with Lapis Architecture and became president of a full-service interiors and architecture practice.

Susan now has over 35 years of interior design experience. During these years, she completed work on a wide range of projects including residences, restaurants, hotels, retail spaces, and corporate offices. Since returning to Honolulu, she has also been able to pursue her passion for color. Susan now manages a thriving color consultation service for residential and corporate clients, creating paint color schemes ranging from light-filled hues to vibrant tones.

Lapis - What’s In a Name

The name of our firm, Lapis Design Partners, is inspired by the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. Derived from the Latin word ‘lapis,’ meaning stone, and from ‘lazulum,’ relating to the color blue in many languages, this beautiful gem, its deep cobalt blue color flecked with golden bits of pyrite, has been highly prized since antiquity. 

With a history stretching back some 7,000 years, lapis lazuli appears in cultural and artistic artifacts across many civilizations, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Cleopatra’s eyeshadow. Imbued with a spiritual essence, lapis is believed to encourage inner peace by opening the mind and calming the senses. 

In ancient times, lapis lazuli became a symbol of the heavens, its golden flecks spread like stars across depths of deepest blue. Vincent Van Gogh famously used lapis ground into ultramarine to paint his masterpiece, The Starry Night. 

The deep blue of lapis in ultramarine pigment is a passage from nature to art, its symbolism spreading from sky to sea. Fittingly, ‘ultramarine’ derives from the Latin for ‘beyond the sea,’ so lapis lazuli is also a symbol of our Pacific island location. After flying thousands of miles from the nearest landmass, as you approach Hawaii the islands appear as precious gems sparkling in a beautiful, shimmering blue sea.