Korean-American architect Kyu Sung Woo recently was named the winner of the 2008 Ho-Am Prize of the Arts. Often called the Korean Nobel, the Samsung-endowed prize is given each year to five ethnic Koreans, living at home or abroad, in the categories of science, engineering, medicine, community service, and the arts. Woo is the first architect to receive the award.
Woo founded his practice, Kyu Sung Woo Architects (KSWA), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990. Prominent in both Korea and the United States, the architect is widely known for a style informed by nature and reflective of cultural context. His use of light, space, and movement is often considered minimalist and meditative. His diverse portfolio includes the Arts of Korea Gallery at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (1997); the Keum Jung Sports Park and Stadium in Pusan, Korea (2002); and dormitories for Vermont’s Bennington College (2001). His Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, in Kansas, was completed last year.
One of his firm’s current endeavors, The Asian Cultural Complex in Gwangju, Korea, likely caught the jury’s attention. Scheduled for completion in 2010, this 1.5-million-square-foot, urban-scale project includes facilities such as performance halls, research and education facilities, and a children’s museum. Along with becoming a regional hub for Asian culture, it will memorialize Korea’s pro-democracy movement of the 1980s.
Woo says he strives to adapt each project to its milieu. “I am honored that the Ho-Am Prize recognized the culture specificity that is fundamental to my work,” he says, “and what I believe as an architect.”