IM Pei: celebrated architect behind Louvre pyramid dead at 102

18 May, 2019, 04:29 | Author: Cecil Buchanan
  • I.M. Pei, renowned architect who left his mark on Denver, dies at 102

Born in China in 1917, banker's son Ieoh Ming Pei came to the USA at 17 to study architecture, receiving an undergraduate degree in the field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940 and then receiving a master's degree in architecture at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design in 1946. Pei and his wife Eileen Loo, a Harvard classmate, would call NY home for the rest of their lives.

The New York Times reports Pei initially turned down the job to design the Rock Hall, but when he changed his mind, he reportedly prepared for it by traveling to rock concerts with the publisher of Rolling Stone.

He is most famous for being the controversial architect chosen in secret by French president Francois Mitterand to design the iconic glass pyramids of the Louvre Museum in Paris, the first phase of which was completed in 1989.

In the late 1960s, he completed the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, the Everson Museum of Art in NY and the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa, before working on the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Bank of China tower (centre) in Hong Kong, as seen in July 2012 photo, was designed by architect I.M. Pei.

His buildings added elegance to landscapes worldwide with their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces.

During the Second World War, he worked as a research scientist for the U.S. government before going on to work as an architect.

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Pei also designed the West Wing addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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. Sunning Plaza in Hong Kong was demolished in 2013, Terminal 6, the Sundrome of New York's JFK International Airport was pulled down in 2011, and the 102-story, nuclear bomb-resistant Grand Central replacement, the Hyperboloid, never got off the ground (but was later immortalized in Never Built New York). From his Manhattan office, Pei and his crew created a model, renderings and plans for a dramatic re-creation of downtown Oklahoma City.

Pei said of the project: "All through the centuries, the Louvre has undergone violent change". He topped it off with a transparent tent-like structure, which was "open - like the music", he said.

During his career, he won many awards, including being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Pei's father was a banker, his mother an artist.

I. M. Pei was born in Guangzhou City, south China's Guangdong Province in 1917.

Shortly after graduating from Harvard, Pei was hired by William Zeckendorf to work for the firm Webb & Knapp, in 1948. "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. His 1980s design for New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, for instance, is still less-than loved.

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