AAPI Heritage Month: 5 Architects That Left a Lasting Impact on History

May 01 2023

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed in the United States during May and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on our history, culture, and achievements.  

In honor of this year’s theme for the observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, advancing leaders through opportunity, we are highlighting five AAPI leaders in the architecture industry that have left a massive impact on the industry and their communities.  

We hope that through sharing the stories of past and current industry leaders, we can inspire the next generation of designers to pursue their passions in the field.  

I.M. Pei (1917-2019) 

I.M. Pei immigrated from China to the United States in the 1930s. He began his career designing buildings for a New York real estate developer and eventually worked his way up to be one of the most revered architects in the industry. Pei is best known for designing the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the glass pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre in Paris, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Throughout his career, he designed many museums, high-rise buildings, concert halls, academic structures, hospitals, offices, and civic buildings.  

Maya Lin (1959-Present) 

During her final year studying architecture and sculptural arts at Yale University, Maya Lin won a nationwide competition to create a design for a monument for those who had served and died in the Vietnam War. Today, the iconic Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. is visited by thousands of people each day. After graduating, Lin went on to design several amazing structures including the design of Topo, a topiary park in Charlotte, North Carolina, and designs for the Langston Hughes Library.  

Kaneji Domoto (1912-2002) 

During his more than 50-year career in architecture and landscape architecture, Kaneji Domoto designed residential, commercial, recreational, and educational projects in the Bay area and along the East Coast, including several homes in Usonia, Frank Lloyd Wright’s planned community. One of his most well-known and awarded projects is the design of Jackson Park in Chicago.  

Helen Liu Fong (1927-2005)  

Before she became an architect, Helen Liu Fong worked as a secretary for architect Eugene Choy in Los Angeles. Two years after she started working for Choy, she got a new job designing for Armet and Davis, another firm in the same building. During her career, Fong was best known for designing Googie-style coffee shops and diners, many of which are still standing today. Some of her most well-known projects are Pann’s Coffee Shop and Norms La Cienega in California.  

Minnette de Silva (1918-1998) 

Minnette de Silva was the first Asian woman to become an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and had a prolific career in architecture during the 1950s and 60s. She was a pioneer in post-independence architecture in her home country, Sri Lanka, and dedicated her career to investigating architecture’s connections to gender, labor, and regional identity. Some of her most well-known designs are the Coomaraswamy Twin House and the Seneviratne House.  

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