A Proud and Blissful Architect
Yu Hi-jun, Hanyang’s emeritus professor
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“At the age of 85, looking back at my life, I am very happy and thankful,” began Yu. Yu Hi-jun (Department of Architecture, ’58) is a Hanyang alumnus and an emeritus professor who taught at Hanyang for 34 years. Having experienced, learned, and achieved a lot in his long journey of life as an architect, Yu has a shining story to share.
An architect and an artist
Almost every day, Yu goes to a coffee shop nearby his house alone and enjoys a cup of coffee for a good two hours. “I like to look back at my life to recall my deeds and ponder whether I’ve led a good life or not.” It all started with Yu’s hobby of drawing a continuous pattern on paper every weekend, which gladly and willingly imprisoned Yu in his room. Since he was in middle school, Yu unconsciously showed his talent in art. “One time, when I was a first grader in middle school, my teacher told us to draw a sketch of the school building. Afterwards, he would put every piece of work on the front board and let it be evaluated openly by all of his classmates. When he saw mine, he said it wasn’t just a mere sketch,” remembered Yu. From this and several other incidents, Yu began to discover his talent in art and architecture.
There had been many ups and downs in Yu’s life before entering Hanyang’s Department of Architecture, such as being captured by the military troop, the Korean War on the 25th of June in 1950, and following months of starvation. Due to the war, Yu was not able to make it to highschool graduation. However, this did not stop him from going to university. During his years in Hanyang, his talent in drawing and architecture became more prevalent and outstanding that it attracted popularity and attention from in and out of the school. Eventually, during the days when going abroad to study was as rare as being nearly impossible, Yu went to America to extend his studies in architecture for graduate school in Iowa. He attempted to earn his tuition fee by getting a job in a design office. “When I was walking in Hanyang campus one day, I was determined to make Hanyang University a better school with my own hands," commented Yu.
One thing that triggered Yu’s desire for studying further was the frustration he received when his professor frequently remarked, ‘there’s something great about this work.’ Yu was more than desperate to find out what that “something” was, which he quenchingly found the answer to after his research and studies in America and during his long years of teaching in Hanyang. The answer was brought to Yu by his accumulation of knowledge and skills as an artist and an architect. Building up on his talent, his hunger for studying and ambition for the future enabled Yu to overcome his past hardships, and that drove him forward.
Built in the past, stands through the future
“My philosophy in architecture is creativity. Regardless of the type of art, once seen, it should ring a pounding beat to one’s heart at the first sight. I was once requested to design a cathedral. After completing it, I imagined the situation where I had to put rows of mattresses because I was afraid people who saw it for the first time would scream and fall back,” said Yu, half jokingly. He revealed that his source of inspiration is his knowledge and all the theories he has studied. Yu takes a shower before starting his work to freshen up his body and mind. “The theories and concepts I’ve studied have become a great stimulus, and that’s where my inspiration comes from.”
Being the receiver of the 21st Catholic Art Special Prize this week, Yu’s notable list of achievements goes on and on. Starting with the former president Park Jung-hee’s office, Yu turned out to be the one who designed the architecture of the Blue House’s (the Korean Presidential Residence) Reception Hall. In addition, after president Park’s wife had become deceased, Yu was requested to remodel her bedroom. He was even requested to design the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs by the president. It was evident that Yu’s sense of architecture was at the level of wide recognition and appreciation, even by the president, so much so, that he was almost single-handedly responsible for such tasks.
From designing several cathedrals to numerous buildings and from writing a number of books, there have been countless achievements Yu has accomplished in his life. Yu remembers the day when he was in a bookstore in Canada looking for books related to architecture and feeling inexplicably happy. He was so happy that he was able to study and learn and be who he was. His passion for studying and architecture has never seemed to dwindle. From December of 2015 to December of 2016, Yu’s private exhibition by the name of ‘Passion’ was held, expressing his happiness and thankfulness of his life. His passion and devotion to art and architecture will remain enthusiastic in his works.
Jeon Chae-yun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kang Cho-hyun
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