Architectural artistry endures
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
Among the modern structures and bland columns that hold up roadway overpasses, there is still beauty in concrete for Mario Valdastri II to admire.
Valdastri, who'll be 76 years old in September, worked with his father and later ran the family business, Architectural Stone & Design Group, until his retirement.
Chris Taylor, AS&D's owner and general manager, has retained Valdastri as a consultant.
"Whenever you see buildings here with columns and arches, there's a good chance we made them," said Valdastri, a San Jose State graduate and former St. Louis high school varsity football coach.
The company, which specializes in precast, cast stone and custom design work, is working on two, 35-foot tall decorative column covers that weigh 10 to 12 tons apiece. The columns will be set up this month at the Kekuana'a Building, formerly known as the Territorial Office Building. The replacement columns replicate the ones laid in 1925 that were crumbling and removed recently.
Describing him as a "hidden treasure," Taylor said Valdastri's knowledge of the old technique needed to do this type job is priceless because it's a lost art.
"He teaches us something everyday," he noted.
The Kekuana'a Building columns will be put in by sections, weighing between 350 and 4,000 pounds apiece. There are six sections and 72 pieces of casting. The company has been working on the project for about four months.
"Essentially, to make a good precast you have to make a good mold," Valdastri said. "If you make a bad mold, you got nothing.
"Working with concrete is an art form," he added. "You can do anything with concrete and it will last forever. But people are afraid to work with concrete because it is difficult."
Taylor noted, "People see the strength and durability of concrete but not the beauty and artistry of what can be done with it."
Valdastri taught and coached at St. Louis in the 1952 and 1953 school years. In 1953, his St. Louis team led by quarterback Talbot George was beaten by Punahou, 22-20, in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's championship game.
"I was making $3,300 as a teacher and coach," Valdastri said. "My father was proud of my accomplishments but lured me into his business by offering me $15,000 a year."