IEOH MING PEI, FAIA , RIBA (born 26 April 1917), commonly known as
I. M. PEI, is a
Chinese American architect. In 1948, Pei was recruited
New York City
Pei's ancestry traces back to the
Pei's ancestors' success meant that the family lived in the upper echelons of society, but Pei said his father was "not cultivated in the ways of the arts". The younger Pei, drawn more to music and other cultural forms than to his father's domain of banking, explored art on his own. "I have cultivated myself", he said later.
At the age of ten, Pei moved with his family to Shanghai after his
father was promoted. Pei attended Saint Johns Middle School, run by
Protestant missionaries. Academic discipline was rigorous; students
were allowed only one half-day each month for leisure. Pei enjoyed
playing billiards and watching Hollywood movies, especially those of
Buster Keaton and
Shanghai's many international elements gave it the name "Paris of the East". The city's global architectural flavors had a profound influence on Pei, from the Bund waterfront area to the Park Hotel , built in 1934. He was also impressed by the many gardens of Suzhou, where he spent the summers with extended family and regularly visited a nearby ancestral shrine. The Shizilin Garden , built in the 14th century by a Buddhist monk, was especially influential. Its unusual rock formations, stone bridges, and waterfalls remained etched in Pei's memory for decades. He spoke later of his fondness for the garden's blending of natural and human-built structures.
Soon after the move to Shanghai, Pei's mother developed cancer. As a pain reliever, she was prescribed opium , and assigned the task of preparing her pipe to Pei. She died shortly after his thirteenth birthday, and he was profoundly upset. The children were sent to live with extended family; their father became more consumed by his work and more physically distant. Pei said: "My father began living his own separate life pretty soon after that." His father later married a woman named Aileen, who moved to New York later in her life.
EDUCATION AND FORMATIVE YEARS
As Pei, neared the end of his secondary education, he decided to
study at a university. He was accepted to a number of schools, but
decided to enroll at the
University of Pennsylvania
In 1935 Pei boarded a boat and sailed to San Francisco, then traveled
by train to Philadelphia. What he found, however, differed vastly from
his expectations. Professors at the
University of Pennsylvania
MIT's architecture faculty was also focused on the Beaux-Arts school,
and Pei found himself uninspired by the work. In the library he found
three books by the Swiss-French architect
Le Corbusier . Pei was
inspired by the innovative designs of the new International style ,
characterized by simplified form and the use of glass and steel
Le Corbusier visited MIT in November 1935, an occasion
which powerfully affected Pei: "The two days with Le Corbusier, or
'Corbu' as we used to call him, were probably the most important days
in my architectural education." Pei was also influenced by the work
of US architect
Frank Lloyd Wright
Although he disliked the Beaux-Arts emphasis at MIT, Pei excelled in his studies. "I certainly don't regret the time at MIT", he said later. "There I learned the science and technique of building, which is just as essential to architecture." Pei received his B.Arch. degree in 1940.
New York City
Less than a month later, Pei suspended his work at Harvard to join
National Defense Research Committee , which coordinated scientific
research into US weapons technology during
World War II
In 1945 Eileen gave birth to a son, T'ing Chung; she withdrew from
the landscape architecture program in order to care for him. Pei
returned to Harvard in the autumn of 1945, and received a position as
assistant professor of design. The GSD was developing into a hub of
resistance to the Beaux-Arts orthodoxy. At the center were members of
One of Pei's design projects at the GSD was a plan for an art museum in Shanghai. He wanted to create a mood of Chinese authenticity in the architecture without using traditional materials or styles. The design was based on straight modernist structures, organized around a central courtyard garden, with other similar natural settings arranged nearby. It was very well received; Gropius, in fact, called it "the best thing done in master class". Pei received his M.Arch. degree in 1946, and taught at Harvard for another two years.
1948–56: EARLY CAREER WITH WEBB AND KNAPP
In the spring of 1948 Pei was recruited by New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf to join a staff of architects for his firm of Webb and Knapp to design buildings around the country. Pei found Zeckendorf's personality the opposite of his own; his new boss was known for his loud speech and gruff demeanor. Nevertheless, they became good friends and Pei found the experience personally enriching. Zeckendorf was well connected politically, and Pei enjoyed learning about the social world of New York's city planners.
His first project for Webb and Knapp was an apartment building with funding from the Housing Act of 1949 . Pei's design was based on a circular tower with concentric rings. The areas closest to the supporting pillar handled utilities and circulation; the apartments themselves were located toward the outer edge. Zeckendorf loved the design and even showed it off to Le Corbusier when they met. The cost of such an unusual design was too high, however, and the building never moved beyond the model stage. Pei's first project (1949) 131 Ponce de Leon Avenue , Atlanta
Pei finally saw his architecture come to life in 1949, when he designed a two-story corporate building for Gulf Oil in Atlanta, Georgia. The building was demolished in February 2013 although the front facade will be retained as part of an apartment development. His use of marble for the exterior curtain wall brought praise from the journal Architectural Forum. Pei's designs echoed the work of Mies van der Rohe in the beginning of his career as also shown in his own weekend-house in Katonah in 1952. Soon Pei was so inundated with projects that he asked Zeckendorf for assistants, which he chose from his associates at the GSD, including Henry N. Cobb and Ulrich Franzen . They set to work on a variety of proposals, including the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall . The team also redesigned the Webb and Knapp office building, transforming Zeckendorf's office into a circular space with teak walls and a glass clerestory . They also installed a control panel into the desk that allowed their boss to control the lighting in his office. The project took one year and exceeded its budget, but Zeckendorf was delighted with the results. Pei wanted the open spaces and buildings of L\'Enfant Plaza to be "functionally and visually related" to one another.
In 1952 Pei and his team began work on a series of projects in Denver, Colorado. The first of these was the Mile High Center, which compressed the core building into less than twenty-five percent of the total site; the rest is adorned with an exhibition hall and fountain-dotted plazas. One block away, Pei's team also redesigned Denver's Courthouse Square, which combined office spaces, commercial venues, and hotels. These projects helped Pei conceptualize architecture as part of the larger urban geography. "I learned the process of development," he said later, "and about the city as a living organism." These lessons, he said, became essential for later projects.
Pei and his team also designed a united urban area for Washington,
D.C., L\'Enfant Plaza (named for French-American architect Pierre
Charles L\'Enfant ). Pei's associate
Araldo Cossutta was the lead
architect for the plaza's North Building (955
L'Enfant Plaza SW) and
South Building (490
L'Enfant Plaza SW).
Vlastimil Koubek was the
architect for the East Building (L\'Enfant Plaza Hotel , located at
L'Enfant Plaza SW), and for the Center Building (475 L'Enfant
Plaza SW; now the
In 1955 Pei's group took a step toward institutional independence from Webb and Knapp by establishing a new firm called I. M. Pei & Associates. (The name changed later to I. M. Pei "> Pei said he wanted the Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research to look "as if it were carved out of the mountain".
NCAR AND RELATED PROJECTS
Pei was able to return to hands-on design when he was approached in
Walter Orr Roberts to design the new
Mesa Laboratory for the
National Center for Atmospheric Research
The conceptualization stages were important for Pei, presenting a
need and an opportunity to break from the
Roberts disliked Pei's initial designs, referring to them as "just a bunch of towers". Roberts intended his comments as typical of scientific experimentation, rather than artistic critique; still, Pei was frustrated. His second attempt, however, fit Roberts' vision perfectly: a spaced-out series of clustered buildings, joined by lower structures and complemented by two underground levels. The complex uses many elements of cubist design, and the walkways are arranged to increase the probability of casual encounters among colleagues. As with NCAR, Pei combined elements of cubism and natural harmony when designing the dormitories at New College of Florida in the mid-1960s.
Once the laboratory was built, several problems with its construction became apparent. Leaks in the roof caused difficulties for researchers, and the shifting of clay soil beneath caused cracks in the buildings which were expensive to repair. Still, both architect and project manager were pleased with the final result. Pei refers to the NCAR complex as his "breakout building", and he remained a friend of Roberts until the scientist died in March 1990.
The success of NCAR brought renewed attention to Pei's design acumen. He was recruited to work on a variety of projects, including the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University , the Sundrome terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, and dormitories at New College of Florida .
After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, his family and friends discussed how to construct a library that would serve as a fitting memorial. A committee was formed to advise Kennedy's widow Jacqueline , who would make the final decision. The group deliberated for months and considered many famous architects. Eventually, Kennedy chose Pei to design the library, based on two considerations. First, she appreciated the variety of ideas he had used for earlier projects. "He didn't seem to have just one way to solve a problem," she said. "He seemed to approach each commission thinking only of it and then develop a way to make something beautiful." Ultimately, however, Kennedy made her choice based on her personal connection with Pei. Calling it "really an emotional decision", she explained: "He was so full of promise, like Jack; they were born in the same year. I decided it would be fun to take a great leap with him."
The project was plagued with problems from the outset. The first was scope. President Kennedy had begun considering the structure of his library soon after taking office, and he wanted to include archives from his administration, a museum of personal items, and a political science institute. After the assassination, the list expanded to include a fitting memorial tribute to the slain president. The variety of necessary inclusions complicated the design process and caused significant delays. Pei considers the John F. Kennedy Library "the most important commission" in his life.
Pei's first proposed design included a large glass pyramid that would
fill the interior with sunlight, meant to represent the optimism and
hope that Kennedy's administration had symbolized for so many in the
US. Mrs. Kennedy liked the design, but resistance began in Cambridge,
the first proposed site for the building, as soon as the project was
announced. Many community members worried that the library would
become a tourist attraction, causing particular problems with traffic
congestion. Others worried that the design would clash with the
architectural feel of nearby
Finally the project moved to Columbia Point , near the University of Massachusetts Boston . The new site was less than ideal; it was located on an old landfill, and just over a large sewage pipe. Pei's architectural team added more fill to cover the pipe and developed an elaborate ventilation system to conquer the odor. A new design was unveiled, combining a large square glass-enclosed atrium with a triangular tower and a circular walkway.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on 20 October 1979. Critics generally liked the finished building, but the architect himself was unsatisfied. The years of conflict and compromise had changed the nature of the design, and Pei felt that the final result lacked its original passion. "I wanted to give something very special to the memory of President Kennedy," he said in 2000. "It could and should have been a great project." Pei's work on the Kennedy project boosted his reputation as an architect of note.
"PEI PLAN" IN OKLAHOMA CITY
Main article: Pei Plan (Oklahoma City)
The Pei Plan was an urban redevelopment initiative designed for downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma , in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the informal name for two related commissions by Pei – namely the Central Business District General Neighborhood Renewal Plan (design completed 1964) and the Central Business District Project I-A Development Plan (design completed 1966). It was formally adopted in 1965, and implemented in various public and private phases throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The plan called for the demolition of hundreds of old downtown structures in favor of renewed parking, office building, and retail developments, in addition to public projects such as the Myriad Convention Center and the Myriad Botanical Gardens. It was the dominant template for downtown development in Oklahoma City from its inception through the 1970s. The plan generated mixed results and opinion, largely succeeding in re-developing office building and parking infrastructure but failing to attract its anticipated retail and residential development. Significant public resentment also developed as a result of the destruction of multiple historic structures. As a result, Oklahoma City's leadership avoided large-scale urban planning for downtown throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, until the passage of the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) initiative in 1993.
DALLAS CITY HALL
Pei wanted his design for Dallas City Hall to "convey an image of the people".
Kennedy's assassination led indirectly to another commission for
Pei's firm. In 1964 the acting mayor, Erik Jonsson , began working to
change the community's image.
Pei's approach to the new Dallas City Hall mirrored those of other projects; he surveyed the surrounding area and worked to make the building fit. In the case of Dallas, he spent days meeting with residents of the city and was impressed by their civic pride. He also found that the skyscrapers of the downtown business district dominated the skyline, and sought to create a building which could face the tall buildings and represent the importance of the public sector. He spoke of creating "a public-private dialogue with the commercial high-rises".
Working with his associate Theodore Musho, Pei developed a design centered on a building with a top much wider than the bottom; the facade leans at an angle of 34 degrees. A plaza stretches out before the building, and a series of support columns holds it up. It was influenced by Le Corbusier's High Court building in Chandigarh , India; Pei sought to use the significant overhang to unify building and plaza. The project cost much more than initially expected, and took 11 years. Revenue was secured in part by including a subterranean parking garage. The interior of the city hall is large and spacious; windows in the ceiling above the eighth floor fill the main space with light. The disastrous failure of windows on the Hancock Tower required replacing them with plywood; some called it "the world's tallest wood building".
The city of
HANCOCK TOWER, BOSTON
While Pei and Musho were coordinating the
Serious issues of execution became evident in the tower almost immediately. Many glass panels fractured in a windstorm during construction in 1973. Some detached and fell to the ground, causing no injuries but sparking concern among Boston residents. In response, the entire tower was reglazed with smaller panels. This significantly increased the cost of the project. Hancock sued the glass manufacturers, Libbey-Owens-Ford, as well as I. M. Pei I. M. Pei we did not give up on each other."
NATIONAL GALLERY EAST BUILDING, WASHINGTON, DC
Time magazine headlined its review of Pei's design for the East Building "Masterpiece on the Mall".
In the mid-1960s, directors of the
National Gallery of Art
Pei took to the project with vigor, and set to work with two young architects he had recently recruited to the firm, William Pedersen and Yann Weymouth . Their first obstacle was the unusual shape of the building site, a trapezoid of land at the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues . Inspiration struck Pei in 1968, when he scrawled a rough diagram of two triangles on a scrap of paper. The larger building would be the public gallery; the smaller would house offices and archives. This triangular shape became a singular vision for the architect. As the date for groundbreaking approached, Pedersen suggested to his boss that a slightly different approach would make construction easier. Pei simply smiled and said: "No compromises."
The growing popularity of art museums presented unique challenges to the architecture. Mellon and Pei both expected large crowds of people to visit the new building, and they planned accordingly. To this end, he designed a large lobby roofed with enormous skylights. Individual galleries are located along the periphery, allowing visitors to return after viewing each exhibit to the spacious main room. A large mobile sculpture by American artist Alexander Calder was later added to the lobby. Pei hoped the lobby would be exciting to the public in the same way as the central room of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The modern museum, he said later, "must pay greater attention to its educational responsibility, especially to the young". Critic Richard Hennessy complained in Artforum about the East Building's "shocking fun-house atmosphere".
Materials for the building's exterior were chosen with careful precision. To match the look and texture of the original gallery's marble walls, builders re-opened the quarry in Knoxville, Tennessee , from which the first batch of stone had been harvested. The project even found and hired Malcolm Rice, a quarry supervisor who had overseen the original 1941 gallery project. The marble was cut into three-inch-thick panels and arranged over the concrete foundation, with darker blocks at the bottom and lighter blocks on top.
The East Building was honored on 30 May 1978, two days before its public unveiling, with a black-tie party attended by celebrities, politicians, benefactors, and artists. When the building opened, popular opinion was enthusiastic. Large crowds visited the new museum, and critics generally voiced their approval. Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in The New York Times that Pei's building was "a palatial statement of the creative accommodation of contemporary art and architecture". The sharp angle of the smaller building has been a particular note of praise for the public; over the years it has become stained and worn from the hands of visitors.
Some critics disliked the unusual design, however, and criticized the reliance on triangles throughout the building. Others took issue with the large main lobby, particularly its attempt to lure casual visitors. In his review for Artforum , critic Richard Hennessy described a "shocking fun-house atmosphere" and "aura of ancient Roman patronage". One of the earliest and most vocal critics, however, came to appreciate the new gallery once he saw it in person. Allan Greenberg had scorned the design when it was first unveiled, but wrote later to J. Carter Brown: "I am forced to admit that you are right and I was wrong! The building is a masterpiece."
Starting in 2005, the joints attaching the marble panels to the walls began to show signs of strain, creating a risk of panels falling off the building onto the public below. In 2008 officials decided that it would be necessary to remove and reinstall all the panels. The project is scheduled for completion in 2013.
FRAGRANT HILLS, CHINA
After US President
In 1978, Pei was asked to initiate a project for his home country. After surveying a number of different locations, Pei fell in love with a valley that had once served as an imperial garden and hunting preserve known as Fragrant Hills . The site housed a decrepit hotel; Pei was invited to tear it down and build a new one. As usual, he approached the project by carefully considering the context and purpose. Likewise, he considered modernist styles inappropriate for the setting. Thus, he said, it was necessary to find "a third way".
After visiting his ancestral home in Suzhou, Pei created a design based on some simple but nuanced techniques he admired in traditional residential Chinese buildings. Among these were abundant gardens, integration with nature, and consideration of the relationship between enclosure and opening. Pei's design included a large central atrium covered by glass panels that functioned much like the large central space in his East Building of the National Gallery. Openings of various shapes in walls invited guests to view the natural scenery beyond. Younger Chinese who had hoped the building would exhibit some of Cubist flavor for which Pei had become known were disappointed, but the new hotel found more favour with government officials and architects.
The hotel, with 325 guest rooms and a four-story central atrium, was
designed to fit perfectly into its natural habitat. The trees in the
area were of special concern, and particular care was taken to cut
down as few as possible. He worked with an expert from
During construction, a series of mistakes collided with the nation's lack of technology to strain relations between architects and builders. Whereas 200 or so workers might have been used for a similar building in the US, the Fragrant Hill project employed over 3,000 workers. This was mostly because the construction company lacked the sophisticated machines used in other parts of the world. The problems continued for months, until Pei had an uncharacteristically emotional moment during a meeting with Chinese officials. He later explained that his actions included "shouting and pounding the table" in frustration. The design staff noticed a difference in the manner of work among the crew after the meeting. As the opening neared, however, Pei found the hotel still needed work. He began scrubbing floors with his wife and ordered his children to make beds and vacuum floors. The project's difficulties took an emotional and physical strain on the Pei family. Pei said of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center : "The complications exceeded even my expectations."
The Fragrant Hill Hotel opened on 17 October 1982 but quickly fell into disrepair. A member of Pei's staff returned for a visit several years later and confirmed the dilapidated condition of the hotel. He and Pei attributed this to the country's general unfamiliarity with deluxe buildings. The Chinese architectural community at the time gave the structure little attention, as their interest at the time centered on the work of American postmodernists such as Michael Graves .
JAVITS CONVENTION CENTER, NEW YORK
As the Fragrant Hill project neared completion, Pei began work on the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, for which his associate James Freed served as lead designer. Hoping to create a vibrant community institution in what was then a run-down neighborhood on Manhattan's west side, Freed developed a glass-coated structure with an intricate space frame of interconnected metal rods and spheres.
The convention center was plagued from the start by budget problems
and construction blunders. City regulations forbid a general
contractor having final authority over the project, so architects and
program manager Richard Kahan had to coordinate the wide array of
builders, plumbers, electricians, and other workers. The forged steel
globes to be used in the space frame came to the site with hairline
cracks and other defects; 12,000 were rejected. These and other
problems led to media comparisons with the disastrous Hancock Tower.
New York City
LE GRAND LOUVRE , PARIS
Pei was acutely aware, as he said, that "the history of Paris was embedded in the stones of the Louvre."
François Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981, he
laid out an ambitious plan for a variety of construction projects. One
of these was the renovation of the
The heart of the new design included not only a renovation of the
Cour Napoléon in the midst of the buildings, but also a
transformation of the interiors. Pei proposed a central entrance, not
unlike the lobby of the National Gallery East Building, which would
link the three major buildings. Below would be a complex of additional
floors for research, storage, and maintenance purposes. At the center
of the courtyard he designed a glass and steel pyramid , first
proposed with the Kennedy Library, to serve as entrance and anteroom
skylight. It was mirrored by another inverted pyramid underneath, to
reflect sunlight into the room. These designs were partly an homage to
the fastidious geometry of the famous French landscape architect
André Le Nôtre
Biasini and Mitterrand liked the plans, but the scope of the
Soon, however, Pei and his team won the support of several key cultural icons, including the conductor Pierre Boulez and Claude Pompidou , widow of former French President Georges Pompidou , after whom another controversial museum was named. In an attempt to soothe public ire, Pei took a suggestion from then-mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac and placed a full-sized cable model of the pyramid in the courtyard. During the four days of its exhibition, an estimated 60,000 people visited the site. Some critics eased their opposition after witnessing the proposed scale of the pyramid.
To minimize the impact of the structure, Pei demanded a method of
glass production that resulted in clear panes. The pyramid was
constructed at the same time as the subterranean levels below, which
caused difficulties during the building stages. As they worked,
construction teams came upon an abandoned set of rooms containing
25,000 historical items; these were incorporated into the rest of the
structure to add a new exhibition zone. The new
MEYERSON SYMPHONY CENTER, DALLAS
The opening of the
Louvre Pyramid coincided with four other projects
on which Pei had been working, prompting architecture critic Paul
Goldberger to declare 1989 "the year of Pei" in The New York Times.
It was also the year in which Pei's firm changed its name to Pei Cobb
Freed "> Although he usually designed entirely by hand, Pei used a
computer to "confirm the spaces" for the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony
One of the projects took Pei back to Dallas, Texas, to design the
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center . The success of city's performing
artists, particularly the
The project presented a variety of specific challenges. Because its
main purpose was the presentation of live music, the hall needed a
design focused on acoustics first, then public access and exterior
aesthetics. To this end, a professional sound technician was hired to
design the interior. He proposed a shoebox auditorium, used in the
acclaimed designs of top European symphony halls such as the Amsterdam
Concertgebouw and Vienna
Pei's design placed the rigid shoebox at an angle to the surrounding street grid, connected at the north end to a long rectangular office building, and cut through the middle with an assortment of circles and cones. The design attempted to reproduce with modern features the acoustic and visual functions of traditional elements like filigree . The project was risky: its goals were ambitious and any unforeseen acoustic flaws would be virtually impossible to remedy after the hall's completion. Pei admitted that he did not completely know how everything would come together. "I can imagine only 60 percent of the space in this building," he said during the early stages. "The rest will be as surprising to me as to everyone else." As the project developed, costs rose steadily and some sponsors considered withdrawing their support. Billionaire tycoon Ross Perot made a donation of US$10 million, on the condition that it be named in honor of Morton H. Meyerson, the longtime patron of the arts in Dallas.
The building opened and immediately garnered widespread praise, especially for its acoustics. After attending a week of performances in the hall, a music critic for The New York Times wrote an enthusiastic account of the experience and congratulated the architects. One of Pei's associates told him during a party before the opening that the symphony hall was "a very mature building"; he smiled and replied: "Ah, but did I have to wait this long?"
BANK OF CHINA, HONG KONG
Pei felt that his design for the
Bank of China
A new offer had arrived for Pei from the Chinese government in 1982.
With an eye toward the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the
British in 1997, authorities in China sought Pei's aid on a new tower
for the local branch of the
Bank of China
The proposed site in Hong Kong's Central District was less than ideal; a tangle of highways lined it on three sides. The area had also been home to a headquarters for Japanese military police during World War II, and was notorious for prisoner torture. The small parcel of land made a tall tower necessary, and Pei had usually shied away from such projects; in Hong Kong especially, the skyscrapers lacked any real architectural character. Lacking inspiration and unsure of how to approach the building, Pei took a weekend vacation to the family home in Katonah, New York . There he found himself experimenting with a bundle of sticks until he happened upon a cascading sequence.
The design that Pei developed for the
Bank of China
As the tower neared completion, Pei was shocked to witness the government's massacre of unarmed civilians at the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 . He wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times titled "China Won't Ever Be the Same", in which he said that the killings "tore the heart out of a generation that carries the hope for the future of the country". The massacre deeply disturbed his entire family, and he wrote that "China is besmirched."
1990–PRESENT: MUSEUM PROJECTS
One staff member sympathized with Pei's frustrations with the
lack of organization at the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
As the 1990s began, Pei transitioned into a role of decreased
involvement with his firm. The staff had begun to shrink, and Pei
wanted to dedicate himself to smaller projects allowing for more
creativity. Before he made this change, however, he set to work on his
last major project as active partner: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
in Cleveland, Ohio. Considering his work on such bastions of high
culture as the
Using a glass wall for the entrance, similar in appearance to his
The building opened in 1995, and was received with moderate praise. The New York Times called it "a fine building", but Pei was among those who felt disappointed with the results. The museum's early beginnings in New York combined with an unclear mission created a fuzzy understanding among project leaders for precisely what was needed. Although the city of Cleveland benefited greatly from the new tourist attraction, Pei was unhappy with it.
At the same time, Pei designed a new museum for
In 1995, Pei was hired to design an extension to the Deutsches Historisches Museum , or German Historical Museum in Berlin. Returning to the challenge of the East Building of the US National Gallery, Pei worked to combine a modernist approach with a classical main structure. He described the glass cylinder addition as a "beacon", and topped it with a glass roof to allow plentiful sunlight inside. Pei had difficulty working with German government officials on the project; their utilitarian approach clashed with his passion for aesthetics. "They thought I was nothing but trouble", he said.
Pei also worked at this time on two projects for a new Japanese religious movement called Shinji Shumeikai . He was approached by the movement's spiritual leader, Kaishu Koyama, who impressed the architect with her sincerity and willingness to give him significant artistic freedom. One of the buildings was a bell tower, designed to resemble the bachi used when playing traditional instruments like the shamisen . Pei was unfamiliar with the movement's beliefs, but explored them in order to represent something meaningful in the tower. As he said: "It was a search for the sort of expression that is not at all technical." Pei's tunnel through a mountain leading to the Miho Museum was partly inspired by a story from fourth-century Chinese poet Tao Yuanming .
The experience was rewarding for Pei, and he agreed immediately to
work with the group again. The new project was the
Miho Museum , to
display Koyama's collection of tea ceremony artifacts. Pei visited the
One major challenge was the approach to the museum. The Japanese team proposed a winding road up the mountain, not unlike the approach to the NCAR building in Colorado. Instead, Pei ordered a hole cut through a nearby mountain, connected to a major road via a bridge suspended from ninety-six steel cables and supported by a post set into the mountain. The museum itself was built into the mountain, with 80 percent of the building underground.
When designing the exterior, Pei borrowed from the tradition of
Japanese temples, particularly those found in nearby
During the first decade of the 2000s, Pei designed a variety of
buildings, including the
Once again, Pei sought to combine new design elements with the classical aesthetic most appropriate for the location of the building. The rectangular boxes rotate evenly to create a subtle movement, with small arched windows at regular intervals into the limestone exterior. The museum's coordinators were pleased with the project; its official website describes its "true splendour unveiled in the sunlight", and speaks of "the shades of colour and the interplay of shadows paying tribute to the essence of Islamic architecture". The Macao Science Center in Macau, designed by Pei Partnership Architects in association with I. M. Pei.
Macao Science Center in
STYLE AND METHOD
Pei's style is described as thoroughly modernist , with significant cubist themes. He is known for combining traditional architectural elements with progressive designs based on simple geometric patterns. As one critic writes: "Pei has been aptly described as combining a classical sense of form with a contemporary mastery of method." In 2000, biographer Carter Wiseman called Pei "the most distinguished member of his Late-Modernist generation still in practice". At the same time, Pei himself rejects simple dichotomies of architectural trends. He once said: "The talk about modernism versus post-modernism is unimportant. It's a side issue. An individual building, the style in which it is going to be designed and built, is not that important. The important thing, really, is the community. How does it affect life?"
Pei's work is celebrated throughout the world of architecture. His colleague John Portman once told him: "Just once, I'd like to do something like the East Building." But this originality does not always bring large financial reward; as Pei replied to the successful architect: "Just once, I'd like to make the kind of money you do." His concepts, moreover, are too individualized and dependent on context to give rise to a particular school of design. Pei refers to his own "analytical approach" when explaining the lack of a "Pei School". "For me," he said, "the important distinction is between a stylistic approach to the design; and an analytical approach giving the process of due consideration to time, place, and purpose ... My analytical approach requires a full understanding of the three essential elements ... to arrive at an ideal balance among them."
On a matter of personal style and his method of business negotiation, Mr. Pei once told a television reporter during an interview about an amusing event that happened in his career. A client was inclined to disburse less treasure for a particular design, and the architect replied "My name is I. M. Pei, not I am Not Pay." The client paid the asking price.
AWARDS AND HONORS
In the words of his biographer, Pei has won "every award of any
consequence in his art", including the Arnold Brunner Award from the
National Institute of Arts and Letters (1963), the Gold Medal for
Architecture from the
American Academy of Arts and Letters
Pei's wife of over seventy years, Eileen Loo, predeceased him in June 2014. They had three sons, T'ing Chung (1946–2003), Chien Chung (b. 1946) and Li Chung (b. 1949), and a daughter, Liane (b. 1960). T'ing Chung was an urban planner and alumnus of his father's alma mater MIT and Harvard. Chieng Chung and Li Chung, who are both Harvard Graduate School of Design alumni, founded and run Pei Partnership Architects . Liane is a lawyer. He celebrated his 100th birthday on 26 April 2017.
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