Obituary: I.M. Pei, architect, 102

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I M Pei, the architect behind buildings including the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris, has died aged 102.

17 May 2019 | QIN CHEN | Inkstone

I.M. Pei, the revered architect who dotted the world with his modernist design, died at his home in Manhattan, New York City, early Thursday. He was 102.

Pei’s audacious use of geometry and holistic view of nature and architecture won the hearts of many influential figures.

Best known for creating the Louvre’s glass pyramid, Pei was born in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in 1917.

Known among Chinese communities as Ieoh Ming Pei, the American architect was a son of a prominent Chinese banker.

Pei spent his formative years in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the classical gardens of Suzhou, before moving to the US aged 18 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later Harvard University.

Pei designed the Suzhou Museum in southeastern China, completed in 2006. He came from a prominent family in the province.

Pei designed the Suzhou Museum in southeastern China, completed in 2006. He came from a prominent family in the province. Photo: Shutterstock
As a tribute to his hometown, Pei drew inspiration for the Suzhou Museum from the ancient tradition of using black and white paint in the region’s houses.

As a tribute to his hometown, Pei drew inspiration for the Suzhou Museum from the ancient tradition of using black and white paint in the region’s houses. Photo: Ben McMillan

During the first two decades of his career, Pei gained global recognition for his versatility in excelling in both commercial projects and art centers and museums.

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy chose him to design the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. The project was a major break for Pei and paved the way for him to land monumental commissions such as the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Hailed as “the most important building of the era” by an architecture critic at The New York Times, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art was completed in 1978. The Times said Pei’s reserved use of the angular form lends the building a monumental sense of gravitas.

Hailed as “the most important building of the era” by an architecture critic at The New York Times, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art was completed in 1978. The Times said Pei’s reserved use of the angular form lends the building a monumental sense of gravitas. Photo: Shutterstock

Pei reached the pinnacle of his career in the early 1980s when he was commissioned to update Paris’ Louvre Museum to accommodate its growing number of visitors.

Then French President François Mitterand personally invited Pei to oversee the museum’s renovation. It was the first time the country had commissioned an architectural project of national importance sans a bidding competition among agencies.

 

President François Mitterand (left) admired Pei (right) for his design of the East Building at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

President François Mitterand (left) admired Pei (right) for his design of the East Building at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Photo: AFP
Pei’s decision to place a modern metal-framed glass pyramid at the center of the classical Napoleon courtyard drew controversy. But it has since become a symbol of Paris.

Pei’s decision to place a modern metal-framed glass pyramid at the center of the classical Napoleon courtyard drew controversy. But it has since become a symbol of Paris. Photo: AP/Jacques Brinon

In his early career, Pei drew inspiration from some of the pioneers of the Bauhaus school.

One of them was Walter Gropius, its founder. Pei studied under Gropius at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard and became close friends with Marcel Breuer, another prominent Bauhaus mind, known for designing the Whitney Museum and the United Nations Building in New York.

But in his later work in Asia, Pei managed to fuse his love for traditional Chinese architectural philosophy with a Western modernist approach.

The Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan, opened in 1997. It is one of the most loved designs by Pei’s admirers in Asia.

The Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan, opened in 1997. It is one of the most loved designs by Pei’s admirers in Asia. Photo: Shutterstock
The interior of the Miho Museum. Pei employed modern materials to render the traditional triangle rooftop design from thatched cottages of ancient times.

The interior of the Miho Museum. Pei employed modern materials to render the traditional triangle rooftop design from thatched cottages of ancient times. Photo: Shutterstock
The Luce Memorial Chapel, opened in 1963 in Taichung, Taiwan, is a prime example of Pei’s philosophy of designing around natural light and respecting the surrounding environment.

The Luce Memorial Chapel, opened in 1963 in Taichung, Taiwan, is a prime example of Pei’s philosophy of designing around natural light and respecting the surrounding environment. Photo: Shutterstock
Pei designed the chapel walls with reinforced concrete to provide stability on an island frequently hit by earthquakes and typhoons. The diamond-shaped exterior tiles were made by local craftsmen.

Pei designed the chapel walls with reinforced concrete to provide stability on an island frequently hit by earthquakes and typhoons. The diamond-shaped exterior tiles were made by local craftsmen. Photo: Shutterstock

The Fragrant Hill Hotel opened in 1982 in Beijing was Pei’s first project in mainland China. He turned down the government’s original invitation to build skyscrapers at the heart of Beijing. Instead, he chose to build a four-story modernist hotel in the style of Chinese classical gardens in a suburb of the capital.

The Fragrant Hill Hotel opened in 1982 in Beijing was Pei’s first project in mainland China. He turned down the government’s original invitation to build skyscrapers at the heart of Beijing. Instead, he chose to build a four-story modernist hotel in the style of Chinese classical gardens in a suburb of the capital. Photo: Handout
Shortly after the Fragrant Hill Hotel opening, the Bank of China approached Pei to design its headquarters in Hong Kong. The tower was the tallest building in the city when it was completed in 1988 and the most striking in its skyline, thanks to the bold use of sharp edges and triangular frameworks.

Shortly after the Fragrant Hill Hotel opening, the Bank of China approached Pei to design its headquarters in Hong Kong. The tower was the tallest building in the city when it was completed in 1988 and the most striking in its skyline, thanks to the bold use of sharp edges and triangular frameworks. Photo: Shutterstock

_106994700_gettyimages-113414703
I M Pei, the architect behind buildings including the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris, has died aged 102.

17 May 2019 | Staff  | BBC

Tributes have been pouring in, remembering him for a lifetime of designing iconic structures worldwide.

Pei’s designs are renowned for their emphasis on precision geometry, plain surfaces and natural light.

He carried on working well into old age, creating one of his most famous masterpieces – the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar – in his 80s.

A pragmatic artist

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou in 1917, and moved to the US at the age of 18 to study at Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard.

He worked as a research scientist for the US government during World War Two, and went on to work as an architect, founding his own firm in 1955.

One of the 20th Century’s most prolific architects, he has designed municipal buildings, hotels, schools and other structures across North America, Asia and Europe.

Qatar's Islamic Museum of ArtImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Qatar’s Islamic Museum of Art is one of Pei’s most famous designs

Suzhou Museum in ChinaAFP/GETTY
The architect also designed the Suzhou Museum in China, which was completed in 2006

His style was described as modernist with cubist themes, and was influenced by his love of Islamic architecture. His favoured building materials were glass and steel, with a combination of concrete.

Pei sparked controversy for his pyramid at the Louvre Museum. The glass structure, completed in 1989, is now one of Paris’ most famous landmarks.

 

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in BostonGETTY IMAGES
Pei designed Boston’s John F Kennedy Library and Museum

Dallas City Hall, designed by architects I M Pei and Theodore J MushoGETTY IMAGES
Image captionI M Pei designed Dallas City Hall with fellow architect Theodore J Musho

I M Pei's Bank of China tower (L) in Hong KongREUTERS
Image captionI M Pei’s Bank of China tower (L) in Hong Kong

His other work includes Dallas City Hall and Japan’s Miho Museum.

“I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity,” he once said.

He was won a variety awards and prizes for his buildings, including the AIA Gold Medal, the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture.

In 1983 Pei was given the prestigious Pritzker Prize. The jury said he had he “has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms”.

He used his $100,000 prize money to start a scholarship fund for Chinese students to study architecture in America.

I M PeiImage FILM MAGIC/GETTY

 

Original Link: I M Pei, Louvre pyramid architect, dies aged 102

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