Wednesday, February 01, 2012
In 1949, Eugene Kinn Choy built his family a home in Silver Lake. Deftly set in a narrow hillside lot, it was praised as a model of modernism, photographed by Julius Shulman and its merits noted in national architecture magazines.
And yet the house might not have been built at all, if not for Choy's ingenuity and resolve. When racial covenants had threatened to keep him out of the area, he went door to door, seeking neighbors' permission before he moved in.
"Even after he got an OK to purchase the land, no mainstream bank would offer financing," says Steven Y. Wong, the curator at the Chinese American Museum. "So he found another way to finance construction. Despite all this, he was able to make a name for himself with his design."
Choy is one of four pioneers whose stories are told in "Breaking Ground: Chinese American Architects in Los Angeles (1945-1980)," which opened at the museum in January and runs through June 3. The exhibition, which is part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative, describes how Choy, Gilbert L. Leong, Helen Liu Fong and Gin D. Wong helped to shape L.A.'s postwar landscape.