Meejin Yoon – Architect and Designer

Women’s Work began with a suggestion to Chris while out to lunch in NYC with an Art Buyer friend of his. She suggested that he meet this interesting woman named Heather. Heather Marold Thomason, the infamous butcher, was the first subject for Women’s Work. This is how many of the subjects we have included in this project have been introduced to us. Someone approaches us with “I know someone who would be perfect for Women’s Work”. That is just the way we were introduced to Meejin Yoon.

Meejin Yoon

We are in a perpetual search for more women that would be inspiring additions to our ongoing project. Sometimes someone is found when you ask the right questions to the right person. Neri Oxman was the connection for us to finding Meejin Yoon. Neri is an architect, designer, and professor at the MIT Media Lab. We had the pleasure of working with her in 2012 on a cover shoot for Wired UK Magazine. During a back and forth email exchange regarding her interest in working together again, Neri suggested her friend Meejin. As an architect, designer, the first female head of MIT’s Department of Architecture, and on January 1, 2019, she will be the new Dean of Cornell University College of Architecture. She will be the school’s first woman in that position in its 122-year history. Meejin is a dream candidate for Women’s Work. She first hit our radar in 2010 with her Light Drift installation. The project placed temporary interactive lighting along Schuylkill Banks in Philadelphia. The installation could be seen from blocks away and the illumination drew in the public like a moth to a flame.

Light Drift – Photo from Philadelphia Mural Arts

While chatting about the project we learned that Meejin also needed some personal photos done for a mid-July deadline. After some discussions of schedule, we landed in Boston for a day trip on July 17th. Planning on a one day shoot in Boston with multiple possible locations would require us to get out the door extra early. The team met at Philadelphia International Airport at 5:15am and by 6:45am we had boarded, waiting to take off. The only concern we had was the weather. When you plan on shooting outside it truly is a roll of the dice as to whether or not you will have beautiful skies.

After a short sleepy flight we arrived at Logan International airport and once bags were loaded in our rental car, we were ready to meet up with Meejin. Our first location was at Höweler + Yoon Architecture firm. In 2005, Meejin and her husband, Eric Höweler, founded their design-driven architecture practice and creative studio. They believe that design is an instrument for imagining and implementing change – social, cultural, technological, and environmental. Located in Boston’s Chinatown, their office, which was formerly their home, has been through some changes since they started. When we arrived they were in the midst of growing and expanding their space again. It is always a pleasure to enter a new creative space. The walls were covered with past and future projects, while 3D models sat on communal tables. An entire wall of shelves, filled with colorful books, laid waiting, ready to inspire. To avoid being too much of a distraction to the quietly working staff we got down to set up for some portrait shots near the front open area of the office away from everyone. With a straightforward concept, we were able to bust through the shot list. We were ready to move onto our next location at the Collier Monument in MIT’s campus in hopes of beating the inevitable rain.

Mike Ryan, Meejin, and Chris

Collier Monument was completed by Höweler + Yoon in 2014 in memory of Officer Sean Collier. Three days after the Boston marathon bombing the 27-year-old MIT patrol officer was shot and killed by the two suspects while on duty. The Collier Memorial is located at the site of the tragedy and is composed of thirty-two blocks of granite that form a five-way stone vault that resembles an open hand referencing MIT’s motto, Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand).

Meejin

With an impending grey sky looming above us, we built our necessary equipment and began to shoot. The Collier Memorial is an inspiring space. What we learned was that it was even more mystical when the rain pours onto the dynamic structure.

The sky literally opened up and dumped buckets of water on our heads. We rushed to Ray and Maria Stata Center for shelter.

Chris

Once the rain transitioned from a torrential downpour to a light drizzle, we headed back out to shoot a bit longer.

Noel Pattani, Meejin, and Chris

As everyone knows, cameras do not work well in the rain. So even though the precipitation had slowed down it was still a risk. To help keep Chris and his camera dry, our producer Noel held an umbrella over him for protection from the elements.

Noel and Chris

Meejin was a complete delight during this difficult portion of our day. To ask someone to sit in the rain and look as if they aren’t getting rained on is challenging. We could not have asked for a better subject and after a few different shots, we called it.

We had a third location which was also outside at the construction site for Meejin’s newest project located on the MIT campus. We decided to break for lunch in hopes of the rain would pass. Coming to the end of our meal the rain only got heavier and unfortunately, Meejin had to return to work. We thanked her for spending most of her day with us and parted ways.

When we headed to the airport there was a palpable a sense of accomplishment for such a productive day. We had a successful shoot even though we weren’t able to fit in the last location. After checking our bags and clearing security we headed to our gate. Once we arrived, we snagged a few lobster rolls. As we sat there enjoying our tasty treats an announcement was made declaring that our flight would be delayed due to the unfortunate heavy rain. The initial delay stretched out to four hours. Our long day had now evolved into a never-ending marathon. It wasn’t until around midnight that we heard the sweet sounds that our flight was boarding. With tired eyes and a mild buzz, we gathered our bags and made our way onto the plane back home. We don’t love same day round trips but sometimes you get the opportunity to work with someone so special that it is clearly the right call.