Architect I.M.Pei Dies at 102

Esequiel Farfan
May 18, 2019

I.M. Pei, the pre-eminent USA architect who forged a distinct brand of modern building design with his sharp lines and stark structures, has died in NY, his sons' architecture firm said Thursday.

Among the many other notable buildings he designed include the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC - and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. That same year, U.S. president George Bush awarded Pei the Medal of Freedom and he was also elected an Honorary Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Canton, China (now Guangzhou), on April 26, 1917, the son of a bank manager.

Pei always referred to himself as an American architect, but he never forgot that he was also Chinese.

A "study in triangles" is how Architecture Week magazine describes Pei's East Building addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Oklahoma City leaders commissioned Pei in the early 1960s to draw up a plan for tearing down hundreds of buildings to reinvent the urban core with a mix of new office towers, hotels, a shopping mall, a performance theater and what turned into the Myriad Gardens. The museum, designed by I.M. Pei, houses a collection of Islamic art from the 7th to the 19th century.

Another building designed by Pei's firm - the John Hancock Tower in Boston - had a questionable future in the early 1970s when dozens of windows cracked and popped out, sending glass crashing to the sidewalks, during the time the building was under construction.

Pei sparked deep controversy with his modernist work on the Louvre pyramid, which was once seen by locals as sacrilege because it was at odds with the classic French Renaissance style of the palace.

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In this November 3, 2003, photo, Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei stands with the plans of the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou in eastern China's Jiangsu Province.

Although Pei retired from his firm in 1990, he continued to work on a few select commissions in his later years. As with the Suzhou Museum, Pei had a personal connection to this project - his father was previously a manager at the bank. "That is the magic of I.M. Pei", he said. It was established by the tiny, oil-rich nation to compete with rival Persian Gulf countries for global attention and investment.

"I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art". His thesis projects at MIT and Harvard - a mobile media and recreation center for rural China and a modern art museum for Shanghai, respectively - signaled his intention to return to his native country.

During the war, Pei worked for the National Defense Research Committee.

In 1948, New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf hired Pei as his director of architecture.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters and New York Times news reports. "McCutcheon had been impressed with Pei's Place Ville Marie in Montreal, Canada (1955-66), which had consolidated a number of sites and provided a mixed-use concept for the entire development", wrote Philip Goad in Bates Smart: 150 Years of Australian Architecture.

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (above), which opened in 1986, was designed by Pei. Eileen Pei died in June 2014.

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