Obituary: King-lui Wu

King-lui Wu, professor emeritus of architecture at Yale University, died of pneumonia in New Haven on August 15, 2002, at the age of 84.

Wu was born on March 25, 1918, in Canton, China, where he was educated at Lingnan Middle School. After coming to the United States, he studied at Yale, then earned both his bachelor’s (1944) and master’s (1945) degrees at Harvard, where he was a student of Walter Gropius.

His long tenure as a teacher of architecture at Yale began in 1945. During sabbaticals from Yale, he was invited by Sir Leslie Martin to teach at the University of Cambridge in England in 1974, and in 1977, he was a visiting professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wu served on a number of advisory boards and committees, including the Harvard University Graduate School of Design Alumni Council, the Planning Society at the University of Liverpool and the American Institute of Architects Committee for Architectural Education. In New Haven, Wu was a president of the Elizabethan Club at Yale and served on the Josef Albers Foundation. As a goodwill ambassador, he received a medal from the government of Finland for promoting friendship between that country and the U.S.

Wu’s writing has been published in Architectural Record, The Architectural Review, Werk and numerous other periodicals and newspapers. He received Architectural Record’s award for Distinguished Houses in 1966 and 1975. In addition to two dozen houses throughout the United States, Wu had many outstanding projects in New Haven. Studios for the Creative Arts Workshop, doctors’ offices, a Baptist Church, the Yale student Manuscript Club and Chinese restaurants are notable among them. Locally, his legacy also includes commercial buildings in Winsted; a recreation facility in Brewster, New York; a factory conversion in Fair Haven; a school for mentally disabled children in Hamden and an apartment building in Bronxville, New York. Farther afield, Wu designed private houses, an office and apartment building in Hong Kong; and, in 1947, 37 buildings for Yali Middle School and Changsha Medical Center in Changsha, China. He collaborated, as a daylight consultant with the firm of Tai-Soo Kim for the Museum of Modern Art in Seoul, South Korea, and for an Art Center at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He did several projects with Philip Johnson in New York, and on a number of occasions collaborated with his close friend Josef Albers on New Haven buildings.

Notable among the variety of courses he taught at Yale were “The Art of Chinese Gardens” and the very popular “Daylight and Architecture.”

The list of celebrated architects who were once Wu’s students include current Yale Architecture School Dean Robert A.M. Stern, Charles Gwathmey, Robert Kliment, Der Scutt, Stanley Tigerman, Thomas Beeby, Jaquelin Robertson, David M. Childs, James Stewart Polshek, Maya Lin, John M.Y. Lee, Michael Timchula, Norman Foster, Richard Rodgers, Myles Weintraub, Vincent Scully, Charles Brewer, Keith Kroeger, Hugh Newall Jacobsen, Frank Lupo, Daniel Rowan, William Porter, Alec Purves, Herbert Newman M.J. Long and Giovanni Passanella.

On Wu’s retirement from Yale in 1988, former student and then New York Times Architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote, “Your continued presence has been the one thing on which students, faculty, alumni and observers of the School could count. But it is more than just your physical presence-I think you have given generations of students a sense that the practice of architecture was a matter of integrity and commitment and not of frivolity. You have brought students into a heavy and profound world without being heavy-handed yourself, and I think they have come out of it feeling that architecture has a sense of grace.”

He is survived by his wife Vivian of Hamden, Connecticut; daughter Yeng and son Loli and daughter-in-law Vivian, all of New York City; and daughter Mai of New Haven.

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