Legendary Chinese-born United States architect I.M. Pei dies at age 102

Joann Johnston
May 18, 2019

Pei trained under modernist architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, getting his start with commercial real estate developer Zeckendorf in NY and launching his own firm in 1955.

Pei's works ranged from the trapezoidal addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, to the chiseled towers of the National Center of Atmospheric Research that blend in with the reddish mountains in Boulder, Colorado.

Crowds around the world flow through the buildings designed by architect I.M. Pei; in Paris, they stream into the Louvre's Pyramid entrance.

Pei's works added elegance to landscapes worldwide with their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces, seen as embracing modernity tempered by a grounding in history.

Pei's other notable designs include Japan's Miho Museum, Hong Kong's Bank of China tower, Dallas City Hall, and Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art - a design he worked on when he was in his 80s. "In our architectural and cultural worlds at the time, he was a pioneer".

Pei said the Louvre was undoubtedly the most hard job of his career.

Pei established his own architectural firm in 1955, a year after he became a USA citizen. "His tact and patience have enabled him to draw together peoples of disparate interests and disciplines to create a harmonious environment".

He dedicated the $100,000 prize money he was awarded as laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize to setting up a scholarship fund for Chinese students to study the craft in the United States, on the condition they return home to design and build.

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However, World War II and the revolution in China prevented him from going back.

This 367.4-metre skyscraper, which appears to be made up of triangles, is one of the tallest office buildings in Hong Kong and arguably one of the most striking on the skyline. Pei designed the landmark glass and metal pyramid and three smaller pyramids in the museum's main courtyard.

The pyramids opened in the spring of 1989. "I was confident because this was the right time".

Pei, whose portfolio included a controversial renovation of Paris' Louvre Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, died overnight, his son Chien Chung Pei told the newspaper.

The project was the result of a recommendation made by Vincent Ponte, a NY city planner who visited Australia in late 1969 and suggested that "ANZ, AMP Society and Mainline Corporation get together to use their total of three and a third acres [approximately 13,500 square metres] to develop a joint venture", reported the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 June, 1971.

Pei's father was a banker, his mother an artist. Their father's firm, previously I.M. Pei and Partners, was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. His 1980s design for New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, for instance, is still less-than loved.

Soon thereafter, officials asked Pei to design a modern high-rise hotel in central Beijing - an aspirational gesture for the then-impoverished nation. He was married to Eileen Loo from 1942 until her death in 2014.

He is survived by his sons Li Chung Pei and Chieng Chung Pei.

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