AAPI Heritage Month: 6 Architects Who Left Their Mark

Past and present, these architects are pioneers in their field!

May 26, 2021
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As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, Finegold Alexander is reflecting on eight Asian American and Pacific Islander architects, past and present, who have left their mark on the realm of architecture. Keep reading to learn more about these inspirational designers and the legacies they leave behind.

I.M. Pei (1917-2019)

I.M. Pei was a Chinese-American architect who left a lasting impression on the world through his design of numerous national landmarks throughout the world. After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Graduate School of Design, Pei went on to work for a real estate magnate in New York City before establishing I.M. Pei & Associates. Pei is best known for his design of the glass pyramid for the Lourve in Paris and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. In Boston, Pei designed the John F. Kennedy Library and oversaw the design of the John Hancock Tower (designed by Henry N. Cobb at I.M. Pei & Partners). Pei’s many accolades include the AIA Gold Medal (1979) and the Pritzker Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

“I.M. Pei was seminal in my experience growing up and being inspired by a Chinese architect to become an architect. I feel he broke the ground in leading the way for many of our most accomplished Asian architects that practice today and to this day is still regarded as one of the greats that inspired countless architects such as myself to go into this profession”Tony Hsiao, Principal and Director of Design, Finegold Alexander

Maya Lin (1959-Present)

Best known for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as an undergraduate at Yale University, Maya Lin has designed numerous memorials, landscapes, and sculptures. While her legacy is rooted in historical memorials, Lin has expanded her work to include environmentally themed designs that address personal relationships to natural and environmental decline. Still active as owner of Maya Lin Studio in New York, Lin continues to influence the world of architecture and design.

Helen Liu Fong (1927-2005)

Born in Los Angeles in postwar American, Helen Lui Fong knew she wanted to be an architect by age 12. After attending the University of California, Berkley, Fong worked as a secretary and later landed a job at Armet & Davis, where she quickly became known for her signature Googie-style of architecture. Googie architecture was known for futuristic design often compared to something out of the “Jetsons” and could often be seen in diners, coffee shops and delis throughout California. Her whimsical creations ushered in a new era for boomerang angles, dynamic forms, and neon lights. Fong was one of the first women to join the American Institute of Architects and is best known for designing the Holiday Bowl bowling alley in Los Angeles, a landmark that brought together Japanese Americans, African Americans, and Chinese Americans in the community.

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)

Although more of a designer than an architect, Isamu Noguchi deserves to be recognized among this group for his massive contributions to modern furniture. Noguchi was born in California but spent most of his childhood in Japan before moving back to the States. In the midst of a pre-med program at Columbia University, Noguchi took a class at the Leonardo da Vinci School of Art and was inspired to pursue sculpting full time. Noguchi is well known for his sleek and organic furniture designs that blend Western modernism and Japanese aesthetics and are considered to be part of the most influential body of modern furniture ever produced. He is also responsible for the Garden of Peace at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the Noguchi Garden in California. His work lives on around the world, in people’s homes, and at the Noguchi Museum in New York City.

Gin Dan Wong (1922-2017)

Gin Dan Wong born in Guangzhou, China but raised in the United States. After serving in World War II he attended USC’s School of Architecture and later began his career at Pereira & Luckman in Los Angeles. Wong worked his way to Vice President of Design there and eventually co-founded William L. Pereira and Associates before starting his own firm, Gin Wong Associates in 1974. His impact in Los Angeles is everlasting; Wong is known for directing the design of the Los Angeles International Airport, the Arco Tower in downtown L.A. and creating the iconic Union 76 gas station in Beverly Hills.

Meejin Yoon (1972-Present)

A Korean American educator, designer and architect, Meejin Yoon is an icon both internationally and in Boston. Yoon was the first woman to helm MIT’S Department of Architecture and established Hӧwler + Yoon, an award-winning architecture firm. A graduate of Cornell University and Harvard University, Yoon has gained a number of accolades including an election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the United States Artist Award in Architecture and Design. In addition to her work being displayed in museums across the globe, Yoon designed the Collier Memorial at MIT, honoring Officer Sean Collier who was killed in April 2013 during the Boston Marathon Bombing.

To discover more resources and articles from Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, head to this link.