“Wind” building among Three Art Museums on Jeju Island, a 2006 project by Itami / Courtesy of Itami Jun Architects
By Lee Hyo-won
Internationally renowned Korean-Japanese architect Jun Itami passed away on June 26, it became belatedly known here, Saturday. He was 74.
Itami, whose Korean name is Yoo Dong-ryul, was born in Tokyo in 1937 during the Japanese colonial era (1910-45). He studied architecture at Musashi University’s engineering school and led an active career for over 40 years.
In 2003, the architect’s oeuvre was highlighted in a solo exhibition, “Itami Jun, Japan’s Korean Architect,” at the Musee Guimet in Paris, France’s national museum dedicated to Asian art.
The exhibition introduced him as “an architect that straddles contemporary art and architecture, transcends national borders and possesses a truly international architectural vision.”
In 2005 he was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a top cultural honor bestowed by the French government.
The following year he won various cultural and environmental awards in Asia.
He was reputed for incorporating Korean traditional aesthetics into modern designs that harmonized with the natural surroundings, and built recognizable buildings in Korea and Japan.
In 2009 Itami was named master architect of the government-sponsored Jeju Gobal Education City project on the tropical island off the southern coast of the country.
He emphasized the use of natural material such as stone, soil, wood and iron and earthy colors. The Pinx Golf Resort and Podo Hotel he designed have become Jeju’s top attractions. He was also a reputed collector of Korean antique art. The Podo Hotel features traditional local wooden furniture in a space that fuses edgy contemporary silhouettes with traditional architectural elements.
The Duson Museum and Three Art Museums on the island won Itami the 2006 Kim Swoo-kuen Culture Award and Japan’s 2010 Murano Togo Award.
Last year he was featured among 200 world-famous architects and designers in the New York Guggenheim Museum’s 50th anniversary exhibition “Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum.”
His eldest daughter Yoo Ehwa, head of Seoul-based architecture institute ITM, will continue the late architect’s projects that remain incomplete.
The funeral was on June 30 and a memorial ceremony will be held on July 19 at ITM in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul.