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In Memoriam
Wang Chiu-hwa

Wang Chiu-hwa in the architecture studios at Columbia University
Wang Chiu-hwa in the architecture studios at Columbia University in 1948. Photo via M+ Collections courtesy Wang Chiu-hwa.
June 17, 2021

“Mother of Taiwanese Libraries”

Columbia GSAPP mourns the loss of Wang Chiu-hwa ‘49 M.Arch. One of the first Asian women to study at GSAPP, Wang Chiu-hwa was born in Beijing, China in 1925 and passed away on June 14, 2021. Wang earned an architecture degree from National Central University in Chongqing, China, and came to the United States to continue her studies first at the University of Washington and then at Columbia University, where she received her Master of Architecture in 1949. From her studying and then working with Percival Goodman, Wang’s projects were inspired by a strong commitment to social ideals, and were deeply humanistic.

Wang Chiu-hwa has described architecture as “an indispensable part of a complex built environment, full of human emotions and social significance, transcending form and function, beauty and practicality.” She has also said that “as a designer, you must concern yourself first and foremost with the well-being of the majority, not just the interests of a few wealthy people.” (See Taiwan Ministry of Culture, The Mother of Taiwanese Libraries, Wang Chiu-hwa.) Columbia Faculty Mae Ngai ’98 GSAS, who is the Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History, and Co-Director Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity, remembers Wang Chiu-hwa: “My aunt taught me how to think critically about architecture and the built environment from the time that I was a child. Every family vacation with her involved a side trip to see a building, whether a medieval church or a modern home or institution.”

Wang Chiu-hwa began working part-time for Percival Goodman while still a student and, following her graduation, continued in the practice full-time for nearly 30 years, helping to design over 50 synagogues, among other projects, and becoming partner in 1975. Most of Wang’s work in the United States is now represented in the M+ Collection Archives, Hong Kong. (See 7 Facts About Wang Chiu-hwa and browse the archive of over 300 objects.)

Wang returned to Taiwan in 1979 and served on the faculty of the Taipei Institute of Technology and Tamkang University, as well as an architectural consultant for a number of public institutions. She became known as the “mother of Taiwanese libraries” by introducing a modern, open-stack concept in her designs for Taiwan’s major libraries—notably the National Center Library and the library of Chung Yuan Christian University in collaboration with Joshua J. Pan '67 M.Arch and his firm JJP Architects and Planners.

In 2003, Wang was recognized as an Outstanding Architect of Taiwan, ROC, and in 2020 she received the National Award for the Arts in architecture, the first female prize-winner since the architecture award was established in 1997.