Ieoh Ming Pei, FAIA, RIBA (born 26 April 1917), commonly known as
I. M. Pei, is a
Chinese American architect. Born in
Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age
from the gardens at Suzhou. In 1935, he moved to the
United States and
enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school, but
quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He
was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture,
and spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le
Corbusier. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of
Design (GSD) and became a friend of the
Bauhaus architects Walter
Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by New York City
real estate magnate William Zeckendorf. There he spent seven years
before establishing his own independent design firm
I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei &
Associates in 1955, which became
I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei & Partners in 1966 and
later in 1989 became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Pei retired from
full-time practice in 1990. Since then, he has taken on work as an
architectural consultant primarily from his sons' architectural firm
Pei Partnership Architects.
Pei's first major recognition came with the National Center for
Atmospheric Research in Colorado (designed in 1961, and completed in
1967). His new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the
John F. Kennedy Library
John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He went on to design Dallas
City Hall and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. He
returned to China for the first time in 1975 to design a hotel at
Fragrant Hills, and designed
Bank of China
Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, a
Hong Kong for the
Bank of China
Bank of China fifteen years later. In
the early 1980s, Pei was the focus of controversy when he designed a
glass-and-steel pyramid for the
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre in Paris. He later
returned to the world of the arts by designing the Morton H. Meyerson
Symphony Center in Dallas, the
Miho Museum in Japan, the
in Suzhou, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.
Pei has won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of
architecture, including the
AIA Gold Medal
AIA Gold Medal in 1979, the first Praemium
Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Lifetime Achievement Award
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2003. In 1983, he
won the Pritzker Prize, sometimes called the
Nobel Prize of
2 Education and formative years
3.1 1948–56: Early career with Webb and Knapp
3.2 NCAR and Related Projects
3.3 Kennedy Library
3.4 "Pei Plan" in Oklahoma City
3.5 Providence's Cathedral Square
Dallas City Hall
3.7 Hancock Tower, Boston
3.8 National Gallery East Building, Washington, DC
3.9 Fragrant Hills, China
3.10 Javits Convention Center, New York
3.11 Le Grand Louvre, Paris
3.12 Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas
3.13 Bank of China, Hong Kong
3.14 1990–present: museum projects
4 Style and method
5 Awards and honors
6 Personal life
7 See also
9 External links
As a child, Pei found the Shizilin Garden in
Suzhou to be "an ideal
Pei's ancestry traces back to the Ming Dynasty, when his family moved
Anhui province to Suzhou, but most importantly his family were
directors of the
Bank of China
Bank of China which later on funded the construction
of important projects including the
Kips Bay project in New York. They
also found wealth in the sale of medicinal herbs, the family stressed
the importance of helping the less fortunate. Ieoh Ming Pei was
born on 26 April 1917 to Tsuyee Pei and Lien Kwun, and the family
Hong Kong one year later. The family eventually included five
children. As a boy, Pei was very close to his mother, a devout
Buddhist who was recognized for her skills as a flautist. She invited
him, his brothers, and his sisters to join her on meditation
retreats. His relationship with his father was less intimate. Their
interactions were respectful but distant.
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 Charlie Chaplin. He also learned rudimentary English
skills by reading the
Bible and novels by Charles Dickens.
Pei describes the architecture of Shanghai's Bund waterfront area
(seen here in a 2006 photo) as "very much a colonial past".
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
Education and formative years
Pei said "Bing Crosby's films in particular had a tremendous influence
on my choosing the
United States instead of England to pursue my
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. Pei's choice had two
roots. While studying in Shanghai, he had closely examined the
catalogs for various institutions of higher learning around the world.
The architectural program at the
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania stood out
to him. The other major factor was Hollywood. Pei was fascinated
by the representations of college life in the films of Bing Crosby,
which differed tremendously from the academic atmosphere in China.
"College life in the U.S. seemed to me to be mostly fun and games", he
said in 2000. "Since I was too young to be serious, I wanted to be
part of it ... You could get a feeling for it in Bing Crosby's
movies. College life in America seemed very exciting to me. It's not
real, we know that. Nevertheless, at that time it was very attractive
to me. I decided that was the country for me."
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
University of Pennsylvania based
their teaching in the Beaux-Arts style, rooted in the classical
traditions of Greece and Rome. Pei was more intrigued by modern
architecture, and also felt intimidated by the high level of drafting
proficiency shown by other students. He decided to abandon
architecture and transferred to the engineering program at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Once he arrived, however,
the dean of the architecture school commented on his eye for design
and convinced Pei to return to his original major.
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. In 1938 he drove to Spring
Green, Wisconsin, to visit Wright's famous Taliesin building. After
waiting for two hours, however, he left without meeting Wright.
Pei attempted to meet renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but gave
up after waiting for two hours.
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
New York City in the late '30s, Pei met a Wellesley
College student named Eileen Loo. They began dating and they married
in the spring of 1942. She enrolled in the landscape architecture
program at Harvard University, and Pei was thus introduced to members
of the faculty at Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD). He was
excited by the lively atmosphere, and joined the GSD in December
Less than a month later, Pei suspended his work at Harvard to join the
National Defense Research Committee, which coordinated scientific
research into US weapons technology during World War II. Pei's
background in architecture was seen as a considerable asset; one
member of the committee told him: "If you know how to build you should
also know how to destroy." The fight against Germany was ending,
so he focused on the Pacific War. The US realized that its bombs used
against the stone buildings of
Europe would be ineffective against
Japanese cities, mostly constructed from wood and paper; Pei was
assigned to work on incendiary bombs. Pei spent two and a half years
with the NDRC, but has revealed few details.
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 the
Bauhaus, a European architectural movement that had advanced the cause
of modernist design. The Nazi regime had condemned the
and its leaders left Germany. Two of these,
Walter Gropius and Marcel
Breuer, took positions at the Harvard GSD. Their iconoclastic focus on
modern architecture appealed to Pei, and he worked closely with both
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 [my] 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
William Zeckendorf to join a staff of architects for his firm
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
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
Pei and his team also designed a united urban area for Washington,
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 480
L'Enfant Plaza SW), and for the Center Building (475 L'Enfant Plaza
SW; now the
United States Postal Service headquarters). The team
set out with a broad vision that was praised by both the Washington
Washington Star (which rarely agreed on anything), but
funding problems forced revisions and a significant reduction in
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 & Partners.)
They gained the freedom to work with other companies, but continued
working primarily with Zeckendorf. The new firm distinguished itself
through the use of detailed architectural models. They took on the
Kips Bay residential area on the east side of Manhattan, where Pei set
Kips Bay Towers, two large long towers of apartments with recessed
windows (to provide shade and privacy) in a neat grid, adorned with
rows of trees. Pei involved himself in the construction process at
Kips Bay, even inspecting the bags of concrete to check for
consistency of color.
The company continued its urban focus with the
Society Hill project in
central Philadelphia. Pei designed the
Society Hill Towers, a
three-building residential block injecting cubist design into the
18th-century milieu of the neighborhood. As with previous projects,
abundant green spaces were central to Pei's vision, which also added
traditional townhouses to aid the transition from classical to modern
From 1958 to 1963 Pei and
Ray Affleck developed a key downtown block
of Montreal in a phased process that involved one of Pei's most
admired structures in the Commonwealth, the cruciform tower known as
the Royal Bank Plaza (Place Ville Marie). According to the Canadian
Encyclopedia "its grand plaza and lower office buildings, designed by
internationally famous US architect I. M. Pei, helped to set new
standards for architecture in Canada in the 1960s ... The tower's
smooth aluminum and glass surface and crisp unadorned geometric form
demonstrate Pei's adherence to the mainstream of 20th-century modern
Although these projects were satisfying, Pei wanted to establish an
independent name for himself. In 1959 he was approached by MIT to
design a building for its
Earth science program. The Green Building
continued the grid design of
Kips Bay and Society Hill. The pedestrian
walkway at the ground floor, however, was prone to sudden gusts of
wind, which embarrassed Pei. "Here I was from MIT," he said, "and I
didn't know about wind-tunnel effects." At the same time, he
Luce Memorial Chapel
Luce Memorial Chapel in at
Tunghai University in
Taichung, Taiwan. The soaring structure, commissioned by the same
organisation that had run his middle school in Shanghai, broke
severely from the cubist grid patterns of his urban projects.
The challenge of coordinating these projects took an artistic toll on
Pei. He found himself responsible for acquiring new building contracts
and supervising the plans for them. As a result, he felt disconnected
from the actual creative work. "Design is something you have to put
your hand to," he said. "While my people had the luxury of doing one
job at a time, I had to keep track of the whole enterprise." Pei's
dissatisfaction reached its peak at a time when financial problems
began plaguing Zeckendorf's firm. I. M. Pei and Associates
officially broke from
Webb and Knapp in 1960, which benefited Pei
creatively but pained him personally. He had developed a close
friendship with Zeckendorf, and both men were sad to part ways.
Pei said he wanted the
Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for
Atmospheric Research to look "as if it were carved out of the
NCAR and Related Projects
Pei was able to return to hands-on design when he was approached in
Walter Orr Roberts
Walter Orr Roberts to design the new
Mesa Laboratory for the
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Center for Atmospheric Research outside Boulder, Colorado.
The project differed from Pei's earlier urban work; it would rest in
an open area in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He drove with
his wife around the region, visiting assorted buildings and surveying
the natural environs. He was impressed by the
United States Air Force
Academy in Colorado Springs, but felt it was "detached from
The conceptualization stages were important for Pei, presenting a need
and an opportunity to break from the
Bauhaus tradition. He later
recalled the long periods of time he spent in the area: "I recalled
the places I had seen with my mother when I was a little boy—the
mountaintop Buddhist retreats. There in the Colorado mountains, I
tried to listen to the silence again—just as my mother had taught
me. The investigation of the place became a kind of religious
experience for me." Pei also drew inspiration from the Mesa Verde
cliff dwellings of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples; he wanted the buildings
to exist in harmony with their natural surroundings. To this end,
he called for a rock-treatment process that could color the buildings
to match the nearby mountains. He also set the complex back on the
mesa overlooking the city, and designed the approaching road to be
long, winding, and indirect.
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
New College of Florida in the
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
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York
City, and dormitories at New College of Florida.
John F. Kennedy
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
Pei considers the
John F. Kennedy Library
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 Harvard Square. By the mid-70s, Pei tried
proposing a new design, but the library's opponents resisted every
effort. These events pained Pei, who had sent all three of his
sons to Harvard, and although he rarely discussed his frustration, it
was evident to his wife. "I could tell how tired he was by the way he
opened the door at the end of the day," she said. "His footsteps were
dragging. It was very hard for I. M. to see that so many people
didn't want the building."
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.
John F. Kennedy
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.
Providence's Cathedral Square
Providence's Cathedral Square, modeled after the Greek Agora
Another city which turned to Pei for urban renewal during this time
was Providence, Rhode Island. In the late 1960s, Providence hired
Pei to redesign Cathedral Square, a once-bustling civic center which
had become neglected and empty, as part of an ambitious larger plan to
redesign downtown. Pei's new plaza, modeled after the Greek Agora
marketplace, opened in 1972. Unfortunately, the city ran out of
money before Pei's vision could be fully realized. Also, recent
construction of a low-income housing complex and Interstate 95 had
changed the neighborhood's character permanently. In 1974, The
Providence Evening Bulletin called Pei's new plaza a 'conspicuous
failure.' By 2016, media reports characterized the plaza as a
neglected, little-visited "hidden gem".
Dallas City Hall
Pei wanted his design for
Dallas City Hall
Dallas City Hall to "convey an image of the
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.
Dallas was known and disliked as the city where
the president had been killed, but Jonsson began a program designed to
initiate a community renewal. One of the goals was a new city hall,
which could be a "symbol of the people". Jonsson, a co-founder of
Texas Instruments, learned about Pei from his associate Cecil Howard
Green, who had recruited the architect for MIT's Earth Sciences
Pei's approach to the new
Dallas City Hall
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
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
The disastrous failure of windows on the Hancock Tower required
replacing them with plywood; some called it "the world's tallest wood
The city of
Dallas received the building well, and a local television
news crew found unanimous approval of the new city hall when it
officially opened to the public in 1978. Pei himself considered the
project a success, even as he worried about the arrangement of its
elements. He said: "It's perhaps stronger than I would have liked;
it's got more strength than finesse." He felt that his relative
lack of experience left him without the necessary design tools to
refine his vision, but the community liked the city hall enough to
invite him back. Over the years he went on to design five additional
buildings in the
Hancock Tower, Boston
While Pei and Musho were coordinating the
Dallas project, their
associate Henry Cobb had taken the helm for a commission in Boston.
John Hancock Insurance
John Hancock Insurance chairman Robert Slater hired I. M. Pei
& Partners to design a building that could overshadow the
Prudential Tower, erected by their rival.
After the firm's first plan was discarded due to a need for more
office space, Cobb developed a new plan around a towering
parallelogram, slanted away from the Trinity Church and accented by a
wedge cut into each narrow side. To minimize the visual impact, the
building was covered in large reflective glass panels; Cobb said this
would make the building a "background and foil" to the older
structures around it. When the Hancock Tower was finished in 1976,
it was the tallest building in New England.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
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 &
Partners, for submitting plans that were "not good and
workmanlike". LOF countersued Hancock for defamation, accusing
Pei's firm of poor use of their materials; I. M. Pei &
Partners sued LOF in return. All three companies settled out of court
The project became an albatross for Pei's firm. Pei himself refused to
discuss it for many years. The pace of new commissions slowed and the
firm's architects began looking overseas for opportunities. Cobb
Australia and Pei took on jobs in Singapore, Iran, and
Kuwait. Although it was a difficult time for everyone involved, Pei
later reflected with patience on the experience. "Going through this
trial toughened us," he said. "It helped to cement us as partners; 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
National Gallery of Art in
Washington, D.C., declared the need for a new building. Paul Mellon, a
primary benefactor of the gallery and a member of its building
committee, set to work with his assistant
J. Carter Brown (who became
gallery director in 1969) to find an architect. The new structure
would be located to the east of the original building, and tasked with
two functions: offer a large space for public appreciation of various
popular collections; and house office space as well as archives for
scholarship and research. They likened the scope of the new facility
to the Library of Alexandria. After inspecting Pei's work at the Des
Moines Art Center in Iowa and the Johnson Museum at Cornell
University, they offered him the commission.
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
Ada Louise Huxtable wrote
The New York Times
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
Richard Nixon made his famous 1972 visit to China,
a wave of exchanges took place between the two countries. One of these
was a delegation of the
American Institute of Architects
American Institute of Architects in 1974,
which Pei joined. It was his first trip back to China since leaving in
1935. He was favorably received, returned the welcome with positive
comments, and a series of lectures ensued. Pei noted in one lecture
that since the 1950s Chinese architects had been content to imitate
Western styles; he urged his audience in one lecture to search China's
native traditions for inspiration.
Pei was surprised by public resistance to his traditional design of
the hotel at
Fragrant Hills in China. "Many people thought I was being
reactionary," he said.
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
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
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
preserve and renovate a water maze from the original hotel, one of
only five in the country. Pei was also meticulous about the
arrangement of items in the garden behind the hotel; he even insisted
on transporting 230 short tons (210 t) of rocks from a location
in southwest China to suit the natural aesthetic. An associate of
Pei's said later that he never saw the architect so involved in a
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
Javits Convention Center, New York
As the Fragrant Hill project neared completion, Pei began work on the
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
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
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
New York City official blamed Kahan for the difficulties,
indicating that the building's architectural flourishes were
responsible for delays and financial crises. The Javits Center
opened on 3 April 1986, to a generally positive reception. During the
inauguration ceremonies, however, neither Freed nor Pei was recognized
for their role in the project.
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
Louvre Museum. Mitterrand appointed
a civil servant named Émile Biasini (fr) to oversee it. After
visiting museums in
Europe and the United States, including the US
National Gallery, he asked Pei to join the team. The architect made
three secretive trips to Paris, to determine the feasibility of the
project; only one museum employee knew why he was there. Pei
finally agreed that a reconstruction project was not only possible,
but necessary for the future of the museum. He thus became the first
foreign architect to work on the Louvre.
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 (1613–1700). Pei also found the pyramid shape best
suited for stable transparency, and considered it "most compatible
with the architecture of the Louvre, especially with the faceted
planes of its roofs".
Biasini and Mitterrand liked the plans, but the scope of the
Louvre director André Chabaud. He resigned from
his post, complaining that the project was "unfeasible" and posed
"architectural risks". The public also reacted harshly to the
design, mostly because of the proposed pyramid. One critic called
it a "gigantic, ruinous gadget"; another charged Mitterrand with
"despotism" for inflicting Paris with the "atrocity". Pei
estimated that 90 percent of Parisians opposed his design. "I
received many angry glances in the streets of Paris," he said.
Some condemnations carried nationalistic overtones. One opponent
wrote: "I am surprised that one would go looking for a Chinese
architect in America to deal with the historic heart of the capital of
Pei decided that a pyramid was "most compatible" with the other
structures at the Louvre, complementing their roofs' faceted
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 Louvre
courtyard was opened to the public on 14 October 1988, and the Pyramid
entrance was opened the following March. By this time, public opinion
had softened on the new installation; a poll found a fifty-six percent
approval rating for the pyramid, with twenty-three percent still
opposed. The newspaper
Le Figaro had vehemently criticized Pei's
design, but later celebrated the tenth anniversary of its magazine
supplement at the pyramid. Prince Charles of Britain surveyed the
new site with curiosity, and declared it "marvelous, very
exciting". A writer in
Le Quotidien de Paris wrote: "The
much-feared pyramid has become adorable." The experience was
exhausting for Pei, but also rewarding. "After the Louvre," he said
later, "I thought no project would be too difficult." The Louvre
Pyramid has become Pei's most famous structure.
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 & Partners, to reflect the increasing stature
and prominence of his associates. At the age of seventy-two, Pei had
begun thinking about retirement, but continued working long hours to
see his designs come to light.
Although he usually designed entirely by hand, Pei used a computer to
"confirm the spaces" for the
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in
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
Dallas Symphony Orchestra then being led by
conductor Eduardo Mata, led to interest by city leaders in creating a
modern center for musical arts that could rival the best halls in
Europe. The organizing committee contacted 45 architects, but at
first Pei did not respond, thinking that his work on the
Hall had left a negative impression. One of his colleagues from that
project, however, insisted that he meet with the committee. He did
and, although it would be his first concert hall, the committee voted
unanimously to offer him the commission. As one member put it: "We
were convinced that we would get the world's greatest architect
putting his best foot forward."
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 Musikverein. Pei drew inspiration for his
adjustments from the designs of the German architect Johann Balthasar
Neumann, especially the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He also
sought to incorporate some of the panache of the Paris Opéra designed
by Charles Garnier.
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
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
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
Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong
needed to reflect "the aspirations of the Chinese people".
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 Chinese government was
preparing for a new wave of engagement with the outside world and
sought a tower to represent modernity and economic strength. Given the
elder Pei's history with the bank before the Communist takeover,
government officials visited the 89-year-old man in New York to gain
approval for his son's involvement. Pei then spoke with his father at
length about the proposal. Although the architect remained pained by
his experience with Fragrant Hill, he agreed to accept the
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
The design that Pei developed for the
Bank of China
Bank of China Tower was not only
unique in appearance, but also sound enough to pass the city's
rigorous standards for wind-resistance. The tower was planned around a
visible truss structure, which distributed stress to the four corners
of the base. Using the reflective glass that had become something of a
trademark for him, Pei organized the facade around a series of boxed X
shapes. At the top, he designed the roofs at sloping angles to match
the rising aesthetic of the building. Some influential advocates of
feng shui in
Hong Kong and China criticized the design, and Pei and
government officials responded with token adjustments.
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, admitting that he was
"operating in a vacuum".
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
Louvre and US National Gallery, some critics were
surprised by his association with what many considered a tribute to
low culture. The sponsors of the hall, however, sought Pei for
specifically this reason; they wanted the building to have an aura of
respectability from the beginning. As in the past, Pei accepted the
commission in part because of the unique challenge it presented.
Using a glass wall for the entrance, similar in appearance to his
Louvre pyramid, Pei coated the exterior of the main building in white
metal, and placed a large cylinder on a narrow perch to serve as a
performance space. The combination of off-centered wraparounds and
angled walls was, Pei said, designed to provide "a sense of tumultuous
youthful energy, rebelling, flailing about".
The building opened in 1995, and was received with moderate praise.
The New York Times
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 Luxembourg, the Musée
d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, commonly known as the Mudam. Drawing
from the original shape of the
Fort Thüngen walls where the museum
was located, Pei planned to remove a portion of the original
foundation. Public resistance to the historical loss forced a revision
of his plan, however, and the project was nearly abandoned. The size
of the building was halved, and it was set back from the original wall
segments to preserve the foundation. Pei was disappointed with the
alterations, but remained involved in the building process even during
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
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
Pei's tunnel through a mountain leading to the
Miho Museum was partly
inspired by a story from fourth-century Chinese poet Tao
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
site in Shiga Prefecture, and during their conversations convinced
Koyama to expand her collection. She conducted a global search and
acquired more than 300 items showcasing the history of the Silk
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 Kyoto. He created
a concise spaceframe wrapped into French limestone and covered with a
glass roof. Pei also oversaw specific decorative details, including a
bench in the entrance lobby, carved from a 350-year-old keyaki tree.
Because of Koyama's considerable wealth, money was rarely considered
an obstacle; estimates at the time of completion put the cost of the
project at US$350 million.
During the first decade of the 2000s, Pei designed a variety of
buildings, including the
Suzhou Museum near his childhood home.
He also designed the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha,
Qatar at the
request of the Al-Thani Family. Although it was originally planned for
the corniche road along
Doha Bay, Pei convinced project coordinators
to build a new island to provide the needed space. He then spent six
months touring the region and surveying mosques in Spain, Syria, and
Tunisia. He was especially impressed with the elegant simplicity of
Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo.
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".
Macao Science Center
Macao Science Center in Macau, designed by Pei Partnership
Architects in association with I. M. Pei.
Macao Science Center
Macao Science Center in
Macau was designed by Pei Partnership
Architects in association with I. M. Pei. The project to build the
science center was conceived in 2001 and construction started in
2006. The center was completed in 2009 and opened by the Chinese
President Hu Jintao. The main part of the building is a
distinctive conical shape with a spiral walkway and large atrium
inside, similar to the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Galleries lead off the walkway, mainly consisting of interactive
exhibits aimed at science education. The building is in a prominent
position by the sea and is now a landmark of Macau.
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
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
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
National Institute of Arts and Letters
National Institute of Arts and Letters (1963), the Gold Medal for
Architecture from the
American Academy of Arts and Letters
American Academy of Arts and Letters (1979), the
AIA Gold Medal
AIA Gold Medal (1979), the first
Praemium Imperiale for Architecture
from the Japan Art Association (1989), the Lifetime Achievement Award
from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the 1998 Edward
MacDowell Medal in the Arts, and the 2010
Royal Gold Medal
Royal Gold Medal from
the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1983 he was awarded the
Pritzker Prize, sometimes called the
Nobel Prize of architecture. In
its citation, the jury said: "Ieoh Ming Pei has given this century
some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms ...
His versatility and skill in the use of materials approach the level
of poetry." The prize was accompanied by a US$100,000 award,
which Pei used to create a scholarship for Chinese students to study
architecture in the US, on the condition that they return to China to
work. In being awarded the 2003
Henry C. Turner Prize
Henry C. Turner Prize by the
National Building Museum, museum board chair Carolyn Brody praised his
impact on construction innovation: "His magnificent designs have
challenged engineers to devise innovative structural solutions, and
his exacting expectations for construction quality have encouraged
contractors to achieve high standards." In December 1992, Pei was
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W.
Pei's wife of over seventy years, Eileen Loo, predeceased him on 20
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
Harvard Graduate School of Design
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.
Asian American portal
I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei projects
^ a b I.M. Pei Biography Archived 18 February 2007 at the Wayback
Machine. – website of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
^ a b Boehm, p. 18.
^ Wiseman, pp. 29–30; Boehm, p. 17.
^ Wiseman, pp. 31–32; Boehm, p. 25.
^ a b Wiseman, p. 31.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 31.
^ a b Wiseman, pp. 31–33.
^ Boehm, p. 22.
^ Boehm, p. 21.
^ Boehm, p. 25.
^ Boehm, p. 26.
^ Gonzalez, David. "About New York; A Chinese Oasis for the Soul on
Staten Island". The New York Times. 28 November 1998. Accessed on 17
^ Boehm, pp. 33–34.
^ Wiseman, pp. 33–34.
^ Wiseman, p. 34.
^ Boehm, p. 34.
^ Wiseman, p. 35.
^ Boehm, p. 36.
^ a b Boehm, p. 36; Wiseman, p. 36.
^ Boehm, p. 40.
^ Boehm, pp. 40–41. Pei used the term "propaganda", which he
believed to be value-neutral; his advisers disapproved.
^ Wiseman, p. 39; Boehm, pp. 36–37.
^ Quoted in von Boehm, p. 42; a slightly different wording appears in
Wiseman, p. 39: "If you know how to build a building, you know how to
^ Boehm, p. 42.
^ Wiseman, pp. 41–43; Boehm, pp. 37–40.
^ a b Quoted in Wiseman, p., 44.
^ Wiseman, p. 45.
^ Wiseman, pp. 48–49.
^ Wiseman, p. 51.
List of I. M. Pei projects
List of I. M. Pei projects on Pei Cobb Freed & Partners website
^ Wiseman, p. 52.
^ Wiseman, pp. 53–54.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 61.
^ Wiseman, pp. 57–58.
^ a b Boehm, p. 52.
^ a b c Williams, 2005, p. 120; Moeller and Weeks, 2006, p. 59.
^ Wiseman, pp. 60–62.
^ Wiseman, pp. 62–64.
^ Boehm, p. 51.
Canadian Encyclopedia online version
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 67.
^ Wiseman, p. 67.
^ Wiseman, pp. 66–68.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 69.
^ Wiseman, pp. 69–71.
^ a b Boehm, p. 60.
^ Boehm, p. 59.
^ Wiseman, pp. 75–76.
^ Wiseman, p. 80.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 79.
^ Wiseman, pp. 73, 86, and 90; Boehm, p. 61.
^ Wiseman, p. 94.
^ Wiseman, pp. 91 and 74.
^ History. 2009. New College of Florida. Retrieved on 12 November
^ Wiseman, pp. 96–98.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 98.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 99.
^ Wiseman, pp. 95 and 100.
^ a b Boehm, p. 56.
^ Wiseman, pp. 102–113.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 113.
^ Wiseman, pp. 115–116.
^ Wiseman, p. 119.
^ "Pei Plan and Pei Model History". Archived 9 November 2010 at the
Wayback Machine. IM Pei Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Historical Society, et
al. Retrieved on 15 June 2010.
^ "I. M. Pei's Tale of Two Cities". Archived 8 October 2011 at the
Wayback Machine. Documentary film. Urban Action Foundation. Online at
OKCHistory.com Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine..
Retrieved on 15 June 2010.
^ a b c d e f g Kasakove, Sophie (7 September 2016). "In Downtown
Providence, A Forgotten Piece Of Architectural History". Rhode Island
Public Radio. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved
25 September 2017.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 125.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 123.
^ Wiseman, pp. 121–123.
^ Wiseman, p. 125.
^ Wiseman, pp. 127–135.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 149.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 136.
^ Wiseman, pp. 136–137.
^ Wiseman, pp. 140 and 145.
^ Wiseman, p. 147.
^ Wiseman, p. 145.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 150.
^ Wiseman, pp. 149–150.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 153.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 181.
^ Wiseman, pp. 155–161.
^ Wiseman, pp. 164–165.
^ Wiseman, pp. 179–180.
^ Boehm, p. 65.
^ a b c Quoted in Wiseman, p. 182.
^ Wiseman, pp. 177–178.
^ Boehm, p. 68.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 183.
^ Leigh, Catesby (8 December 2009). "An Ultramodern Building Shows
Signs of Age". The Wall Street Journal.
^ Wiseman, p. 189.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 193.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 192; Wiseman, pp. 189–92.
^ Wiseman, pp. 192–193.
^ Wiseman, pp. 201–203.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 205.
^ Wiseman, pp. 204–205.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 211.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 206.
^ Wiseman, pp. 206–207.
^ Wiseman, pp. 211–216.
^ Wiseman, pp. 222–224.
^ a b c Boehm, p. 84.
^ Wiseman, p. 233; Boehm, p. 77.
^ Wiseman, p. 234.
^ Wiseman, pp. 235–236.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 240.
^ Wiseman, pp. 249–250.
^ a b Quoted in Wiseman, p. 249.
^ Boehm, p. 80.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 250.
^ Wiseman, pp. 251–252.
^ Wiseman, p. 257.
^ Wiseman, pp. 255–259.
^ a b Quoted in Wiseman, p. 259.
^ Boehm, p. 90.
^ Ching, Francis; Jarxombek, Mark (2007). A Global History of
Architecture. Prakash, Vikramaditya. New Jersey: John Wiley &
Sons, Inc. p. 742. ISBN 0-471-26892-5.
^ Goldberger, Paul (17 September 1989). "ARCHITECTURE VIEW; A Year of
Years for the High Priest of Modernism". The New York Times. Retrieved
4 January 2010.
^ Wiseman, pp. 263–264.
^ Wiseman, p. 272.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 267.
^ Wiseman, pp. 269–270.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 272.
^ Wiseman, pp. 273–274.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 286.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 288.
^ Wiseman, pp. 286–287.
^ Wiseman, pp. 287–288.
^ Wiseman, pp. 289–291.
^ a b Quoted in Wiseman, p. 294.
^ a b c Quoted in Wiseman, p. 307.
^ Wiseman, pp. 303–306.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 306.
^ Wiseman, pp. 311–313.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 315.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 316.
^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 300.
^ Boehm, pp. 99–100.
^ Wiseman, pp. 317–319.
^ Wiseman, pp. 318–320.
^ Wiseman, pp. 320–322.
^ Barboza, David (2006-10-09). "
I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei in China, Revisiting Roots".
The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-04.
^ "The Architect: Introduction". Museum of Islamic Art. Retrieved on
26 December 2009.
^ Development & Construction Archived 19 November 2011 at the
Wayback Machine., Macao Science Center.
^ a b President Hu inaugurates Macao Science Center, People's Daily,
20 December 2009.
^ Wiseman, p. 11; Boehm, pp. 45–46.
^ Heyer, p. 309.
^ a b Wiseman, p. 323.
^ Quoted in Diamonstein, p. 145.
^ a b Quoted in Wiseman, p. 215.
^ Boehm, p. 113.
^ The MacDowell Colony
^ "Jury Citation" Archived 17 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine..
The Pritzker Architecture Prize. 1983. The Hyatt Foundation. Retrieved
on 10 September 2014.
^ "I. M. Pei: Biography" Archived 18 February 2007 at the Wayback
Machine.. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Retrieved on 26 December
^ "I. M. Pei's Construction Innovation". Architecture Week.
^ "Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medals of Freedom".
University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 26 April
^ "Eileen L. Pei".
The New York Times
The New York Times (courtesy of legacy.com). 25
^ "Paid Notice: Deaths PEI, T'ING CHUNG". The New York Times. 2
^ "Liane Pei and William F. Kracklauer, Lawyers in New York, Are
Married". The New York Times. 16 September 1990.
^ "Ieoh Ming Pei, the master architect behind
celebrates 100th birthday". The Daily Telegraph. 26 April 2017.
Retrieved 26 April 2017.
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1980. ISBN 0-8478-0329-5.
Heyer, Paul. Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America.
New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993. ISBN 0-442-01751-0.
Boehm, Gero von. Conversations with I. M. Pei: Light is the Key.
Munich: Prestel, 2000. ISBN 3-7913-2176-5.
Wiseman, Carter. I. M. Pei: A Profile in American Architecture. New
York: H.N. Abrams, 2001. ISBN 0-8109-3477-9.
Lenci, Ruggero. I. M. Pei: teoremi spaziali. Turin, Testo &
Immagine, 2004. ISBN 88-8382-143-2.
Williams, Paul Kelsey. Southwest Washington, D.C. Charleston, S.C.:
Moeller, Gerard M. and Weeks, Christopher. AIA Guide to the
Architecture of Washington, D.C. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Wikimedia Commons has media related to I. M. Pei.
Pei Partnership Architects
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Ieoh Ming Pei information at Structurae
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I. M. Pei at the Digital Archive of American Architecture
Pritzker Prize information and acceptance speech
Concept sketches for The Musée d'Art Moderne
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I. M. Pei Architecture on Google Maps
Pritzker Architecture Prize
Pritzker Architecture Prize laureates
Philip Johnson (1979)
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Glenn Murcutt (2002)
Jørn Utzon (2003)
Zaha Hadid (2004)
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Paulo Mendes da Rocha
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Peter Zumthor (2009)
Kazuyo Sejima and
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