College applications, prom and the struggle to hold on until second term are usually the main concerns of Stuyvesant seniors. But the life of senior Jaeyoung Byun is a bit more complicated. He is struggling not only to get into college, but also to become an architect.
His architectural credentials are already impressive, considering Byun recently had some of his work shown at the Hun Gallery in Manhattan, and has also designed a building.
Byun’s passion for architecture began when he was five. He was flipping through a picture book and became fascinated with the buildings in it. “I love how they just fit together so perfectly. I am awestruck by the specific structures that suit specific needs,” Byun said. Ever since, he has been carefully observing buildings and structures.
Architectural interest runs in the Byun family. Byun’s uncle and cousin are architects who have helped turn architecture into a serious passion for him.
Byun’s credits his artistic development to the drawing classes he takes outside of school. His art teacher, Jihun Lee, helped Byun develop his artistic abilities and build confidence in his drawings. Byun said, “He [Lee] taught me that a tree that I draw is still a tree even though it might appear not to be a tree to others.” The drawings Byun does for Lee’s class are usually not architectural designs. However, it was in Lee’s class that Byun learned techniques that later helped him attain an artist’s eye for color and design.
Byun thrives in his challenging art class. “I have had Byun as a student since he was five. He is a talented and hard-working student. But what sets him apart from the other students are his diligence and his talent for incorporating his religious faith with his work to make something amazing.” Lee said.
Byun has also interned at a construction firm run by a family friend. He was chosen as one of 30 students to take the “Introduction to Architectural Design and Theory” program at Columbia University. The program is highly selective, so when Byun got rejected, he took matters into his own hands. He went directly to the office and asked them to accept him. “I refused to be rejected. I wanted to definitely get in that year,” Byun said. His determination earned him a spot at the prestigious program. There, Byun learned basic concepts of architectural design.
He now continues his studies by attending architectural design classes at Cooper Union every Saturday. The class is an intensive training program for aspiring architects. Brandon Jay Todder, Byun’s classmate and friend, said “The program only accepts talented individuals. And Byun is one of those.”
Byun had 13 of his pieces on display at the Hun Gallery art show. Some notable ones are “The Nude” and “Imaginative Reality.” “The Nude” is a drawing of a naked woman done entirely in pen ink. Byun had wanted to take an object of everyday life and use it to create a unique and stunning piece of art. “Imaginative Reality” was chosen as one of the top 25 paintings to be displayed in the same gallery for a week. The painting centers on an island, representing a utopian society. A person is looking at the island, but is not able to reach it. The vast ocean surrounding the island is discouraging. “You know you can swim to the island. But it’s just too distant,” Byun said.
The center of the exhibition is the building he designed, Roman 8:28. The building isn’t being built but this is the first building he has ever designed by himself. Byun incorporates his religious background into the building—as we can see by the name he chose which is a verse from the Bible. The building symbolizes the interaction of God and man. At the base of the building, there are two towers that represent God and humans. The towers almost seem to intermingle with each other, crossing one another again and again. “It shows that God will always be a part of humans’ lives. We are tied to Him,” Byun said. His strong religious beliefs are a large part of his architectural designs and art pieces. “I want to show my interest in religious faith in all my art,” Byun said.
Byun is not interested in fame. “He’s really modest about his accomplishments,” junior Kenneth Chen. Byun values more the thought process that is put into creating a work of art.
Like anyone else, Byun makes mistakes sometimes and his drawings don’t turn out the way he wants. However, instead of giving up, he directs his emotions into creativity and transforms the subject into something different. Some of his most respected and well-known pieces started out as unsatisfactory sketches.
Byun enjoys challenging himself with his art and is constantly searching for new ideas. Some of his drawings of abstract pieces are vessels to tell a story or to express what he’s feeling. He feels that he draws his pieces with an intention that he’s not even sure about.
Byun has applied for the prestigious architectural program at Cooper Union for college and is waiting anxiously for the reply. Between being featured at art galleries and designing buildings, Byun is clearly well on his way to becoming an architect.