After almost a century, Lin Huiyin, a Chinese architecture student at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) between 1924 and 1927, will be awarded a posthumous Bachelor of Architecture diploma by the Stuart Weitzman School of Design. The world-renowned artist Maya Lin is Huiyin’s niece.
Huiyin was among the first generation of Chinese architecture students at UPenn between 1918 and 1941 to go on to work and teach in architecture in China. Of the cohort, Huiyin was the only woman in the group, and was the only one not awarded a diploma after completing her studies.
To date, UPenn describes Huiyin as the “first and most famous female architect in modern China.” Before studying overseas, Huiyin was an active participant in the May Fourth Movement, an anti-imperialist student movement in Beijing that started in 1919. Five years later, she arrived in Philadelphia alongside her husband and lifelong collaborator Liang Sicheng where the two met Paul Philippe Cret, a UPenn professor who led the school’s then-Beaux Arts design program.
In 1928, Huiyin and Sicheng returned to China where they designed a railway station in Jilin. Later, they became renowned preservationists and designed the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square, across the way from Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum. Huiyin died a premature death of tuberculosis in 1955. She was survived by her husband and two children.
In collaboration with the Penn Wharton China Center, Weitzman associate professor Lin Zhongjie and Tong Ming, a Chinese architect and professor at Southeast University, have curated an exhibition about the cohort of Chinese students at UPenn between 1918 and 1941 who collectively established firms and started schools for studying architecture that later gave way to the growth and development of Chinese cities. This earned the group of students the nickname the “first generation of modern Chinese architects.”
On May 18, 2024 at the Weitzman Commencement Ceremony, UPenn will posthumously award Lin Huiyin her long overdue degree.