ARTISTIC ARCHITECT. Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei bursts
out laughing while posing in front of the Louvre glass pyramid
in the museumís Napoleon Courtyard prior to its inauguration by
French President Francois Mitterrand in Paris, in this March 29,
1989 file photo. The versatile, globetrotting architect who
revived the Louvre and captured the spirit of rebellion at the
multi-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has died at age 102.
(AP Photo/Pierre Gleizes, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #10 (May 20, 2019), page
I.M. Pei, architect who designed Louvre
Pyramid, dies at 102
By Kathy McCormack and Deepti Hajela
The Associated Press
NEW YORK ó I.M. Pei (PAY), the versatile, globetrotting
architect who revived the Louvre with a giant glass pyramid and
captured the spirit of rebellion at the multi-shaped Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame, has died at age 102.
Peiís death was confirmed by Marc Diamond, a spokesman for
the architectís New York firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. One of
Peiís sons, Li Chung Pei, told The New York Times his
father had died overnight.
Peiís works ranged from the trapezoidal addition to the
National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the chiselled
towers of the National Center of Atmospheric Research that blend
in with the reddish mountains in Boulder, Colorado.
His buildings added elegance to landscapes worldwide with
their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces. Among them are
the striking steel and glass Bank of China skyscraper in Hong
Kong and the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing.
His work spanned decades, starting in the late 1940s and
continuing through the new millennium. Two of his last major
projects, the Museum of Islamic Art, located on an artificial
island just off the waterfront in Doha, Qatar, and the Macau
Science Center, in China, opened in 2008 and 2009.
Pei painstakingly researched each project, studying its use
and relating it to the environment. But he also was interested
in architecture as art ó and the effect he could create.
"At one level my goal is simply to give people pleasure in
being in a space and walking around it," he said. "But I also
think architecture can reach a level where it influences people
to want to do something more with their lives. That is the
challenge that I find most interesting."
Pei, who as a schoolboy in Shanghai was inspired by its
building boom in the 1930s, immigrated to the United States and
studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and Harvard University. He advanced from his early
work of designing office buildings, low-income housing, and
mixed-used complexes to a worldwide collection of museums,
municipal buildings, and hotels.
He fell into a modernist style blending elegance and
technology, creating crisp, precise buildings.
His big break was in 1964, when he was chosen over many
prestigious architects such as Louis Kahn and Ludwig Mies van
der Rohe to design the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in
At the time, Jacqueline Kennedy said all the candidates were
excellent, "But Pei! He loves things to be beautiful." The two
A slight, unpretentious man, Pei developed a reputation as a
skilled diplomat, persuading clients to spend the money for his
grand-scale projects and working with a cast of engineers and
Some of his designs were met with much controversy, such as
the 71-foot faceted glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre
museum in Paris. French President Francois Mitterrand, who
personally selected Pei to oversee the decaying, overcrowded
museumís renovation, endured a barrage of criticism when he
unveiled the plan in 1984.
Many of the French vehemently opposed such a change to the
symbol of their culture, once a medieval fortress and then a
national palace. Some resented that Pei, a foreigner, was in
But Mitterrand and his supporters prevailed and the pyramid
was finished in 1989. It serves as the Louvreís entrance, and a
staircase leads visitors down to a vast, light-drenched lobby
featuring ticket windows, shops, restaurants, an auditorium, and
escalators to other parts of the vast museum.
"All through the centuries, the Louvre has undergone violent
change," Pei said. "The time had to be right. I was confident
because this was the right time."
Another building designed by Peiís firm ó the John Hancock
Tower in Boston ó 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
A flurry of lawsuits followed among the John Hancock Mutual
Life Insurance Co., the glass manufacturer, and Peiís firm. A
settlement was reached in 1981.
No challenge seemed to be too great for Pei, including the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie
in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Pei, who admitted he was just
catching up with the Beatles, researched the roots of rock Ďní
roll and came up with an array of contrasting shapes for the
museum. He topped it off with a transparent tent-like structure,
which was "open ó like the music," he said.
In 1988, President Reagan honored him with a National Medal
of Arts. He also won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture
Prize, 1983, and the American Institute of Architects Gold
Medal, 1979. President George H.W. Bush awarded him the
Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.
Pei officially retired in 1990 but continued to work on
projects. Two of his sons, Li Chung Pei and Chien Chung Pei,
former members of their fatherís firm, formed Pei Partnership
Architects in 1992. Their fatherís firm, previously I.M. Pei and
Partners, was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.
The museum in Qatar that opened in 2008 was inspired by
Islamic architectural history, especially the 9th-century mosque
of Ahmed ibn Tulun in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. It was
established by the tiny, oil-rich nation to compete with rival
Persian Gulf countries for international attention and
Ieoh Ming Pei (YEE-oh ming) was born April 26, 1917, in
Canton, China, the son of a banker. He later said, "I did not
know what architecture really was in China. At that time, there
was no difference between an architect, a construction man, or
Pei came to the United States in 1935 with plans to study
architecture, then return to practice in China. However, World
War II and the revolution in China prevented him from coming
During the war, Pei worked for the National Defense Research
Committee. As an "expert" in Japanese construction, his job was
to determine the best way to burn down Japanese towns. "It was
awful," he later said.
In 1948, New York City real estate developer William
Zeckendorf hired Pei as his director of architecture. During
this period, Pei worked on many large urban projects and gained
experience in areas of building development, economics, and
Some of his early successes included the Mile High Center
office building in Denver, the Kips Bay Plaza Apartments in
Manhattan, and the Society Hill apartment complex in
Pei established his own architectural firm in 1955, a year
after he became a U.S. citizen. He remained based in New York
City. Among the firmís accomplishments are the Jacob Javits
Convention Center in New York City and the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Peiís wife, Eileen, whom he married in 1942, died in 2014. A
son, Tíing Chung, died in 2003. Besides sons Chien Chung Pei and
Li Chung Pei, he is survived by a daughter, Liane.