George Yu, Architect and Educator, Dies at 43

George Yu, a young and distinguished Los Angeles architect, died on July 7. At age 43, he leaves behind a significant body of work and an active role in the architectural community.

Diagnosed in July 2004 with a rare and advanced lung cancer that affects non-smokers, he remained active throughout much of his illness, as a husband, father to two young girls, designer, teacher, and regular ice hockey player.

Thom Mayne, founding principal of Morphosis Architects, and longstanding friend of Yu’s explained “George is really unique as an architect and human being. At his age most architects are just getting started. George had accomplished a lot, but he had huge talent, and had a lot ahead of him.”

Born in Hong Kong, Yu grew up in British Columbia, Canada. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Geography from the University of British Columbia in 1985, and a Master of Architecture from the University of California in Los Angeles in 1988.

After graduating, he worked at Morphosis Architects until 1992, when he left to launch his own firm. Yu maintained a close relationship with Mayne, who said that “when George left the firm, it wasn’t just talent we lost, but an entire spirit of community and creative energy.”

“And he was always, always so positive,” added Mayne. “Even in his own death, he could turn it around.”

At his own firm, George Yu Architects, he completed more than 65 projects, including workspaces for IBM e-business in Chicago, New York, and Atlanta, prototypes for fashion boutiques, a shopping center in Nagoya, the design studios for the Sony Electronics Design Center in Santa Monica, Calif. and Shanghai. His most recent project, the Honda Advanced Design Studio in Pasadena, Calif., has been critically acclaimed, and was the subject of a recent exhibition at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc).

Yu was a design faculty member at SCI-Arc, serving from 1998 until the time of his death. A committed teacher, he participated in the eight hours of final studio reviews in April 2007, despite his increasingly dire condition, and having been discharged from the hospital the day before. Eric Owen Moss, Director of SCI-Arc, observed that “in one of the noisiest times in human affairs, George was quiet.”

Moss added that Yu “had poise, patience, and optimism—no, something deeper than optimism—that few people could ever understand. And it came across in his life and in his work.”

The architect’s many accolades include a Canadian Rome Prize, in 2000, and his selection as an Architectural League Emerging Voice, in 2006, and to represent the United States in the 2004 Venice Biennale. But more significant was Yu’s intangible contribution to those around him. Said Mayne, “he was a well-loved person whose loss will be deeply felt.

Two memorial services in honor of George Yu:

George Yu Hockey Memorial Cup
Saturday 7/28/07, 6:45pm, Culver Ice Arena

George Yu Memorial Celebration
Sunday 7/29/07, 1pm, SCI-Arc

Categories: Cities