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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I. M. Pei
in Luxembourg, 2006
Native name 貝聿銘
Born (1917-04-26) 26 April 1917 (age 101)
Guangzhou, Kwangtung, China
Citizenship United States
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) Eileen Loo
(m. 1942; d. 2014)
Children 4
Awards Royal Gold Medal
AIA Gold Medal
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Pritzker Prize
Praemium Imperiale
Practice I. M. Pei & Associates 1955–
I. M. Pei & Partners 1966–
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners 1989–
Pei Partnership Architects (Consultant) 1992–
Buildings John F. Kennedy Library, Boston
National Gallery of Art East Building
Louvre Pyramid, Paris
Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
Indiana University Art Museum

Ieoh Ming Pei, FAIA, RIBA[1] (born 26 April 1917), commonly known as I. M. Pei, is a Chinese American architect. Born in Guangzhou and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age from the gardens at Suzhou. In 1935, he moved to the United States and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school, but quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture, and spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and became a friend of the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zeckendorf, for whom he worked for seven years before establishing his own independent design firm I. M. Pei & Associates in 1955, which became I. M. Pei & Partners in 1966 and later in 1989 became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Pei retired from full-time practice in 1990. Since then, he has taken on work as an architectural consultant primarily from his sons' architectural firm Pei Partnership Architects.

Pei's first major recognition came with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado (designed in 1961, and completed in 1967). His new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He went on to design Dallas City Hall and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. He returned to China for the first time in 1975 to design a hotel at Fragrant Hills, and designed Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, a skyscraper in Hong Kong for the Bank of China fifteen years later. In the early 1980s, Pei was the focus of controversy when he designed a glass-and-steel pyramid for the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He later returned to the world of the arts by designing the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Miho Museum in Japan, the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.

Pei has won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of architecture, including the AIA Gold Medal in 1979, the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2003. In 1983, he won the Pritzker Prize, sometimes called the Nobel Prize of architecture.

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Good afternoon. Just very quickly, because I won't have time to do it later, I just wanted to thank the local people who convened this and organized this. Seng Kuan, Ken Stewart, from our communications department, Melanie Park, Paige Johnston, Travis. They did a lot of work putting this together. And it's an amazing collection of people, whom I also want to thank. Most of you know there's a massive intellectual force at work here. And to have it focused on a single body of work is very, very exciting. You may not know, we have a lot of important people with direct connections to the office of I.M. Pei, as was discussed last night and again this morning. But we have as many people whose connection to Pei is only intellectual. I think that most of you have not even met him. So that is also something to ponder and think about and appreciate. And of course, there's Hong Kong to come. And thanks to Eric Chin, and Cole Roskam, and others for helping organize this in relation to Harvard. Today this session, which is the first of two for the afternoon, is entitled "Spatial and Formal Practices." But I just want to quickly say, perhaps suggest other things to listen for as we go across the papers. Because then we'll have time for discussion across the papers. Listen for issues of movement. This came up last night. You're going to hear it again a bit today. The issue of movement begins in Pei's thesis project. And I'd like to sort of talk about how it compares maybe across some of the other projects. Related to that is relation to site. You'll see one absolutely amazing, let's say, topography, the Mesa project, and how that differs for the urban projects which we've mostly been talking about. Patronage. You'll hear an intense involvement by one patron, also for the Mesa project. But I'd like to think about, not everyone will talk about it, but see if you can register how does a museum director or a museum donor, do those marks show up in any different way than some other patrons? And finally, there will be some strong claims toward the end of today into the presentations about registrations of time as well as movement. And that's something that hasn't come up. Most of the people who talk about the materials and the spaces and forms are either talking about them experientially, but not, let's say, philosophically, which we will also hear. Our first speaker is Daniel Abramson. Danny is a friend of the school. He's professor of architectural history at Boston University, where he's also the director of Architecture Studies Program, just in his beginning of his second year, having come from Tufts. Danny is an alum not of GSD but of the History of Art and Architecture PhD program. And he's been very, very close to the GSD since he left there. And we welcome him. [applause] Thank you, Michael, for the introduction and also for framing up this session. I am grateful to this conference organizers. They accepted a paper on a topic that's hardly mentioned in the Pei literature. Government Center is obscure in its history and design, seemingly marginal to Pei's career, and so may trouble or vex historians. What was Pei's responsibility here? What does it mean? And what in general should we do with the evidence of minor works like this in narrating a career? Government Center is vexing in other more public ways too. For generations, it has seemed to be one of Boston's civic calamities. The broad, paved City Hall Plaza at the plan's heart, in particular, is derided as cold and empty, without focus or incident. Commonly characterized as a barren wasteland. Government Center vexes countless visitors as lacking in form, absent of meaning, and resistant to appropriate use. To better understand vexing Government Center's vexatiousness within Pei's career in Boston, I propose looking at the evidence of planning studies produced before Pei's involvement to compare these to each other and then to the Pei office's plan. Since the mid-20th century, Boston's leaders had considered redeveloping the portion of the city north of the Central Business District and east of the State House-- so just to be oriented, there's the State House, now nestled in the 1950s in the crook of the new elevated highway, the Central Artery, and centered on the curve of Scollay Square, right here. The specific goals of the Government Center redevelopment were one, to replace this rundown commercial district with new private sector development, primarily to improve the city's tax base. Two, to rationalize the warren of streets for better vehicular circulation, and to produce larger development sites. And three, to consolidate various dispersed government offices, which were part of the expanding American welfare state at city, state, and federal levels, which would itself also help to prime the area for private development. In design, city planners in 1956 sketched a new arrangement, running east-west. From now on with the slides, the vertical axis is going to be the east-west, with the State House up here to the west. And down here, the east, towards the harbor. Sketched a new arrangement running east-west between the State House at the top of the plan and the retained colonial era landmark of Faneuil Hall here. You can line that up in the slide on the right. There's Faneuil Hall at the bottom. Note that in the plan on the left, 19th century Quincy Market below Faneuil Hall is completely obliterated. Linked in part, this east-west axis by this broad new street that subdivided the area to the south with private development next to the existing business district. And to the north, with new government buildings. The State House offices were positioned westward appropriately alongside the statehouse. The largest federal building, projected at 1 million square feet, on the biggest block down here at the angle facing Faneuil Hall. And a new City Hall in the center position. A year later, a new 1957 set of plans now relocated the federal building to the center, with City Hall shifted to the angle across from Faneuil Hall. The main east-west axis, significantly, is now a series of open pedestrian plazas, not a street. The earlier plan's vehicular primacy is thus mitigated. It's wanton disregard for the past, too. Note that Quincy Market is now retained. Yet there are tensions within these 1957 revisions, as illustrated in this eastward facing perspective towards Faneuil Hall, standing in the federal building's plaza. So this view was taken roughly from this position looking down this way, eastward. The street system's primacy in the plan's objectives is suppressed in the image on the right by an idealization of the pedestrian plaza's seeming continuity over the street. Moreover, the irregularity of City Hall's off-kilter angle to the federal building in Faneuil Hall. And now, there's a detail in the plan on the left that lines you up with that perspective view. So that's what I mean, that off-kilter relationship. That off-kilter relationship is concealed in the perspective view by an imagined geometric-- whoops, let me go back on that-- it's concealed by this imagined geometric right angle. Pedestrian life here is shown happily ordered within modern regularity, symbolically framing an historic landmark. This on the right is a dream of form and meaning not their actual difficult realities. A year later in 1958, a new plan retains the federal building still on the central site. Now including a much bigger plaza. Crucially, the federal building is cranked northward to align not with the proposed new east-west axis but rather with the existing angled street pattern. The building is pushed northward by the kept curve of Corn Hill. And it now runs parallel with the existing Hanover Street, both of which had been absent from the 1957 plan. The design is literally bending to what exists. In fact, for the first time, the 1958 planning document openly acknowledges the value of the past. Not only are Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market retained, but so too are a block of colonial era structures and alleys along Blackstone Street. And Scollay Square regains its name at the curve between Cambridge and Tremont streets. Indeed, this 1958 planning study can be seen as the revenge of Scollay Square, even before its actual demolition. Its curve is now allowed to break rather than be subsumed within the new east-west axis. It splits the earlier unified plans in two at the angle of the federal building, dividing the scheme into separate western and eastern halves, eroding its overall coherence. The most complete planning study for Government Center, a 33-page illustrated booklet, appeared in the following year, 1959. Produced by the outside planning firm of Adams, Howard and Greeley, headed by the MIT planner Frederick Jay Adams, and using as consultants the MIT affiliates Kevin Lynch and Jon Myhre. In the 1959 Adams, Howard, and Greeley plan, Government Center is now fully splayed open-- whoops, [inaudible]-- fully splayed open along that north-south axis. Let me go back. The largest federal building is now relocated southward-- is now relocated southward here, close to other federal offices in the business district. And the smaller City Hall is now placed in the center, right there. A six-story rectangularish block around a central courtyard. And we see that there's City Hall right here. City Hall, the planners declared, "must be the principal building since it contains the local seat of government," they wrote. The east-west axis is now completely given over to a zigzagging chain of public spaces. Coming down here, breaking through here, splitting over and down like that. Forming the spine of what the planners denoted, quote, "a valley of low buildings" to conserve views of prominent landmarks from Faneuil Hall to the State House dome at the top of this view. The symbolic and the visual have become the dominant priorities, explicitly now in the planning document over the original economic and traffic aims. So that this new plan could produce a seemingly harmonious, quote, "contrast of old and new." In fact, the tensions in the plan are now pulling it apart, not producing a happy harmony, most clearly in its center. City Hall's bizarre splayed shape is a function of the discordant angles of old Hanover's Street and Scollay Square, and the new pedestrian steps to the eastward. Similarly, the new Civic Square, as it's called, is splayed open to fill the space between the curve and City Hall, lacking strong geometric form or focus of its own. In perspective views, the Civic Square is formless, without orderly containment, landmarks, or focii. A place of informal traversing views and perambulations. It is, I think, an odd vision of the civic. Indeed, the planners had little sense at all of what would take place in the Civic Square beyond walking and congregating, and vague, what they called, civic ceremonials. They evinced no understanding of the actual political structures that produced and were accommodated at Government Center. Indeed, the post-war American welfare state created growth at the federal and state levels, where its funding and administration took place. Which is why the federal and state, not city buildings, were always the largest in square footage in the Government Center program. Thus, featuring City Hall, as this plan does in 1959, even for purposes of creating local goodwill, featuring City Hall in the center nevertheless misrepresents realities. The 1959 plan, with its featured City Hall, represents a sentimentality, knowing or not, for a pre-welfare state polity. Before a federal Washington, in partnership with the states, ascended above the local. We arrive now at the Pei plan, on the right. The firm was hired in 1960 by the incoming director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Ed Logue, who as Henry Cobb has explained, Logue wanted a rising star architect with a big enough office staff to implement the scheme. Logue, as you know, was also very fond of concrete. The Pei office also had significant experience already in New York, Washington, and Philadelphia with the developer William Zekendorf, doing similar public-private large scale, federal funded urban renewal projects. The Pei office 1961 plan, authored by Cobb, with the assistance of August Nakagawa and general oversight of Pei, kept the 1959 scheme's dominant north-south arc. However, shifting the state buildings now to a new campus northward. And the federal building from the south to the site now north of City Hall. City Hall itself remains in guideline a rectilinear central courtyard building, but now regularized into a square and slightly rotated and shifted southward so that it stands, as Cobb has explained, deliberately more isolated and monumentalized from the buildings around it. The southward shift of City Hall also turned the earlier oblong Civic Square into a more l-shaped space, lined to the west and east across major traffic arteries by a pair of curved blocks. And to the South, by the arc of the now retained older 19th century Sears block. The Pei office also notably grassed most of the open areas. We can see the thin paths across the stippling, including the Central Plaza, now denoted Government Center Common. This was close to the nearly realized plan. Though when Kallmann and McKinnell won the competition to design City Hall, they produced a more rectangular structure and insisted that the plaza be paved not grassed. To the north, the Massachusetts State Service Center complex of buildings was reorganized into a single integrated mass by Paul Rudolph at the suggestion of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. What then did the Pei office contribute to this serial design of Government Center? In effect, very little. The earliest schemes, Adam braided the street layouts and pedestrian routes, the dominant arc and historical sensitivities, plus the prominence and shape of City Hall. The Pei office's primary contributions were to increase the isolated, perhaps we might say sentimental monumentality of City Hall, and to expand the Central Plaza. Soon after, Government Center, and particularly City Hall Plaza's formlessness was felt to be deficient. A deliberate antidote, Rudolf's State Service Center, again, in the upper right here, in its original conception, formed a more coherent, unified whole than the separate buildings around City Hall Plaza. The Pei office's own Christian Science Center from just a few years later offered a better balanced equilibrium of solids and voids than did City Hall Plaza. The Christian Science Center's public spaces have always been considered a great success. City Hall Plaza itself has been renovated several times. It lost its fountain, which had been located here, and gained a streetside arcade by Chan Krieger. And has been subject to numerous proposals to fill in, shape, and give life to the apparent wasteland. Over the years, it has also regularly hosted numerous events, from circuses and skating rinks to music festivals. And even as we speak right now, a temporary set up of geodesic domes for Boston Hub Week. In effect, City Hall Plaza has come to function less like a civic piazza and more like a small town fairground. Empty space awaiting activation and then lapsing back into disuse. Perhaps rather than being vexed by this seeming wasteland, we should come to accept City Hall Plaza, name it for what it is and what it does well. To be simply Boston's fairground, a site of ad hoc invention in its formlessness. Indeed, formlessness reflects Government Center's history and making too. Not solely authored by Pei, his firm, or any other singular entity, Government Center's design is rather the product of a more or less haphazard relay, handed on from one team to another from 1956 to the present, seemingly without end. How can such a relayed design be fit into the narrative of a single architectural firm, much less one person's career? Henry Cobb sees Government Center as crucial to the office's future patronage, especially in Boston. Yet this significance too is in the form of a relay, meaning deferred to later. Indeed, in its spatial formlessness and relayed design, Government Center seems to resist placement in any overarching interpretation of Pei's work. And so it illuminates the artificiality generally of totalizing narratives of a life or of a career, which may not easily digest minor evidence like Government Center. It's obduracy, its difficulties can perhaps be seen positively from both historiographic and design perspectives. Like it's fairground character, a formless void, it is true. Government Center is also a site of possibility and invention by future historians and designers alike. In conclusion, Government Center, a wasteland indeed for worse and for better. Let it continue to vex us and allow us to vex it. To question, probe, and intervene in its troublesome and vexing form and history. Thank you very much. [applause] Can you stay? Thank you, Danny. Stuart Leslie teaches the History of Science and Technology at the John Hopkins University. But he's written much on architecture, including studies of Saarinen's corporate laboratories, the health care work of Goldberg and Ziedler, as well as laboratories by Louis Kahn, Edward Durell Stone, and what we'll hear today, a lab by I.M. Pei, the NCAR Mesa Lab. Yes, Stuart. Well, I study this scientists and engineers and physicians who live in the buildings you design. And so I tend to tell it from their side, and they often complain. So you have to forgive that. Now laboratories, of course, measure their results by Nobel prizes not by Pritzker prizes. And some of the most renowned laboratories in Nobel respects, like Murray Hill, Bell Labs here, are some of its least distinguished architecturally. And something like Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax tower is one of the worst research bases. It looks great but you can't put anything in it. And they became eventually so unhappy that they left it altogether and just abandoned it. You just can't put any instruments under there. Wright was about my height. And he thought anything higher that was a waste of space. But not for a gas chromatograph. So I.M. Pei's Mesa Lab, shown here, is one of those few labs that is as renowned for its architecture as it is for its scientific contributions. And I think that's because it was such an active collaboration between a visionary architect and a visionary scientist, both young men at the time in their 40s, both looking to establish their reputations, and really a back and forth between them. It may be to many of you one of his less familiar commissions. But it will be certainly familiar to all of you for Woody Allen's Sleeper, which was filmed here in 1973. And there he is. He actually is about five feet off the ground. And he was never higher than that. But what I like about this, and I couldn't resist showing you, is it perfectly captures the two aspects of this place that are most important, it's architecture and it's computers. [video playback] [crinkling noises] - Do you love Erno? - Oh, Miles, I don't know. [crinkling noises] - All right. The coast is clear. Start lowering me. - This is manual. - No, that's fast forward. [dixieland music playing] [end playback] That's all I have clearance for. You have to go rent the movie after that. [laughter] But for Walt Roberts, the idea of Mesa Lab was that it would be a kind of village green in this network of institutions that NCAR is. The National Center for Atmospheric Research is not just a single building but a series of places that contribute data to this place, which then turns it into computer models, where it's analyzed and observed. And Roberts had some very strong convictions about the sort of place that he really wanted. He wanted a place that would be characterized by complexity, by communication, and by creativity. As he liked to say, there are 20 ways to get from my office to the chemistry department. And what that meant for him was 20 different ways of serendipitous encounters, chances for people who might not otherwise see each other to do so. His idea was something that would be small enough so that everyone would know one another and he would know all of them. But large enough to get on with the job at hand. This is a nice aerial view of it. It sits, as you'll see, on this table mesa in front of the Flat Iron Range, which is this spectacular set of mountains in the foothills of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado. He firmly believed that small is beautiful. But he also believed, this is Fermi Lab, designed as much by Robert Wilson, its founding director, as its architect. I think it was Moshe Safdi said, a scientist who serves as his own architect has a fool for a client. But what he wanted here was something that would be recognizable, something that would be beautiful, and something that would be a good place to work. It's none of those things, but Mesa Lab is all those things. This is Walt Roberts on the left, I.M. Pei on the right, at the dedication of the building about 50 years ago. And what he told Pei he wanted was not only a stunning visually stunning laboratory but a place that looked like a creative space. One that would look like something that a place scientists would want to work, that the public would want to come. He thought that it should complement rather than compete with the site. And there's very good reasons for that. And a place that would be small in character, although it would have a staff of 350 people. This is a building Roberts designed himself. And what he liked about it was small, he noticed that people would meet each other in the hallways. That communication just doesn't work very well up and down. And he wanted to capture that spirit as he moved from this laboratory on the campus of the university to his new one. But he really didn't know much about architecture. So he had to find somebody who did. He knew what space he wanted to use. His house was within sight of this mesa. So he knew exactly where to put it. He just didn't have the architect who could design the right kind of building. So he set out to find him, or her. He turned to Tician Papachristou, who was in Breuer's office later. He's the third from the right. And he quite understandably said, go out and find me good models for Mesa Labs, if you can find good models and good architects who can do the job for me. He said he wanted dispersed buildings. He didn't want anything monumental. He wanted restraint and simplicity. He wanted a sort of Spartan character. So he and one of Robert's assistants went out to see what was there. And what they discovered was nothing that they liked. Although, they should liked this one. This is General Atomic by William Pereira in San Diego. And it's a classic sort of aerospace modernist building. Or you might call it country club Californian in design. But it stands out in these little blue spider legs like something really to take off into the future. But none of these laboratories seemed to have the soul that he was looking for. They compiled a list of architects actually. And the list is interesting. And what they had to say about the different ones is interesting too. So Saarinen was on the list. And they made a little note. "Will design a unique building but it will be impossible to live with." And Yamasaki, he was on there. "Will design jewel box building but it'll cost too much." And then they went through all the list of architects and they couldn't really find one that was going to give this the attention that he thought it deserved. Finally, they decided, well, if we can't find an architect on our own we'll go and we'll ask the deans of the top architecture schools, who are themselves members supporting this laboratory, to each nominate a candidate. Now I'm not sure that I would want the deans of architecture to do the actual site work on this. But there they are. And of course, each of them nominated one of their best alums. MIT nominated I.M. Pei, and gave him the idea that he should build a kind of monastic place of dense interchange, a lot of collaboration, and interdisciplinary research. The idea was not a monument or a temple. But as Roberts put it, a place where people can be distracted by a different kind of beauty. One suitable to the site but also to the requirements of the scientists who would work there. So he was he was brought out as were several others. In his favor, I guess in his favor, was that he'd done this building in MIT, which is an earth sciences building. He'd also worked in Denver, as you saw. He knew a lot about concrete, which was important because that's what Roberts thought the building should be made of. And he obviously made it a priority. He told Roberts that he was going to give himself heart and soul to this. He said, Roberts asked him, well, what kind of view? If you ask 10 scientists what sort of building you want, and you'll get six different answers. And Pei told them, give me a chance and I'll give you a seventh answer. And that's exactly what he ended up doing. This is just to give you a sense of the site and the scale. Pei's first building was more like that building at MIT. It was about 10 stories, it was monolithic, it would have been utterly dwarfed by the site itself, it would have disappeared. The scientists who saw those plans said, no. We insist on something that isn't a monolith. We want you to break up this piece. We've got 350 people here but we don't want to be in a tall tower. They also gave them instructions like, I want to be able to hear the birds sing. And I want to be able to open the windows, and all those kinds of things, which we're not going to be possible with that design. They also sent him a very revealing note. They said, you might think about the winters here. They're really cold and the wind blows very hard. So spend some time out here in the winters, which he never did. He was only there in the summers. And he talked about how wonderful it was to walk the mesa and see it in the summertime. But of course, when you get up in those crow's nests in the winter it's a whole different kind of experience. So NCAR had its architects. He had his instructions. But he still didn't know exactly how to build it. This is his final model. What they asked him to do was take that monolith, break it up into different sections, partly so it could communicate more easily with one another, but also because you could build it one segment at a time, in case you ran out of money. And that's exactly what happened. NSF ran out of money so they built the part in the foreground, but the South Tower was never built. Roberts had a nice memo about pay as you go was the-- he couldn't resist the pun like that. So he did. Pei pulled this thing apart. He allowed it to communicate with different parts of the structure. And you can see in this Ezra Stoller photograph how that's done. So that you have clusters of towers with connecting corridors and lots of spaces along those corridors where you can sit down and talk to a colleague, a blackboard there to work out some of your design problems. And he did in fact get the budget down to where it needed to be. And delivered the kind of building that Roberts had in mind. The crow's nests there are its most interesting feature. The idea was that you could get away from everybody. You could climb up this little circular staircase and be completely on your own. There's some reasons why that wasn't such a good idea. But it turns out that it gives it a dramatic look anyway. It's a little porch you can get out on. He also included a fountain, a kind of a touch of Alhambra. This too, we'll see, didn't turn out to be a great idea for the same reasons that in the winter it blows it all over the place. And a tree courtyard. So it had everything that Roberts asked for it. It had those contemplative spaces, it had public spaces, and it was small in character. It certainly provided that. And they got the master of concrete that they wanted. These are some of his test panels. But when he actually got around to building it, they used Bush hammering. And the idea there was you could turn the concrete into something that looked like monolithic stone. So that you really can't tell at a glance how many stories it actually has. It was expensive to do. Pei convinced them that it was worth the money. And I think the results shows that it was. These are the flat roofs with the little offices there. You climb up through those cylinders and that's how you get there. Roberts warned him, warned Pei that if you give atmospheric scientists a roof they will build something on it. Pei was very opposed to that and lost. They built these penthouses, they sprouted antenna. They ruined what he considered the perfect lines of the building. But from their view, of course, it was exactly what was needed. This was a building which shows how you design for one kind of science but you can't anticipate how it's going to change. This is what atmospheric science was when Pei was commissioned to do this building in 1961. That would change rather dramatically, even in the course of the building, so that wet labs, like this one, would disappear entirely. Here's the beginning of the construction. Walt Roberts, I must say, was that kind of client who looks over your shoulder all the time. And he would walk up to the mesa, watch the construction going up. They compared him to a pharaoh watching his Great Pyramid being built. It was really the achievement of a lifetime for him, more than even his science as this thing went up. When it was done it was perfectly suited to the kind of science it had been designed to serve. But it was perfectly unsuited for the kind of science that atmospheric research had become. You can see there all the things on the rooftop, et cetera. Many of the parts of it that Pei thought would work out well didn't. Those crow's nests were very cold in the winter. And of course, the post-docs were sent up there rather than the research scientists. When they had the dedication of the building, Walt Roberts praised Pei. And pay said, well, you know, I'm proudest of those crow's nests. And Roberts told him, it only proves that scientists can work anywhere. But the lounge area here works beautifully. We had a nice event there last month. Winter's not so much. What it meant was these public spaces can only be used in part of the year. The fountain had to be taken down entirely because it was spraying water and it was dripping into the computers underneath, et cetera. The library, which was one of Pei's proudest achievements in here, became, of course, superfluous. It became either grab and go or find it in your own office. It's still there but it doesn't serve the purpose that it was once intended to serve. But the thing that really changed it was this. When Walt Roberts commissioned the building, he asked one of the architects about computers. And the architect told him, well, calculating machines will be important but nothing will ever replace the slide rule. What nobody could anticipate, of course, it wouldn't be the slide rule it would be the supercomputer that would be required at Mesa Lab to do the complex calculations for climate models. And so, oh, I have lots of time. So these are the Cray computers. And of course, the computers ended up costing more than the building itself. It started with one, and pretty soon there was a bank of them. The additions that you see to the building are invisible from the surface. They're all underneath. So the extensions were built out to accommodate these computers. But eventually, they took up so much power, generated so much heat, and required so much water that they had to be relocated actually to Wyoming. So the building itself is now a symbol of NCAR. But almost all of the real scientific work is done somewhere else and then compiled here. So in a sense, the best view in this building was in the basement because that's where the computers were where you could actually put together those climate models. And so, while a stunning piece of architecture, and, of course, it appears on the business cards of NCAR employees, it's become an iconic representation. It's the building that says, this is who we are, and this is what we do. it's so much part of its identity it's difficult to imagine ever replacing it because it was such a perfect symbol for what NCAR car was. But actually, now it's administrative offices. It's not a laboratory at all. This is on the 20th anniversary of the place. Pei and Roberts came together. Roberts, I think, aged worse than Pei did. And I think that's because of all the problems of funding environmental science, et cetera. Ezra Stoller, who took some of those wonderful photographs that you saw, was very good at taking the measure of men as well as buildings. But he talked about how he'd seen Walt Roberts again, and he still seemed to be wearing the same Sears Roebuck suits. And the many battles he'd had to fight in the stress and strains of god knows what administrative infighting had toughened him considerably. Pei still looks pretty darn good in that one. There's a famous book, of course, How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand. And I think this is an interesting example. And I want to end with Brand's thought provoking ideas about the three kinds of architecture. What he calls the low road, and the no road, and the high road. And this is the low road. This is building, or was building 20 at MIT. It was a makeshift, temporary place where some of the best science in the post-world war got done. It was, as you well know, replaced by the Stata building, whose occupants really aren't in love with it. Where the people who lived here actually we're. That's the low road. Another Pei building. This Brand took, maybe unfairly, to be the no road of Architectural magazine of architecture. Played well to the camera but it wasn't a place that actually encouraged the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that he thought it should. Brand did spent a year in that building. So I guess he had some notion of what he was talking about. But Mesa Lab is a building that would took the high road. That is, it's a building respected and loved actually by its inhabitants. They've learned to make the best of its flaws and foibles and constraints. And as Roberts explained to Pei, and as I think Pei magnificently interpreted in this building, a laboratory, like the scientists in it, have to make and learn from mistakes. It never should be final, just like science is never, never final. So rewatching Sleeper I couldn't help but notice this scene. And in it, it shows you all of the-- [video playback] [music playing] This is the final scene. [music playing] [end playback] OK. What's happening there is at the end, the Dictator's nose was supposed to be taken by a trained crow and flown off. And they tried it two or three times and they couldn't get it to work. So somebody from the lab suggested, why don't you just run it over with-- because it's right there. We're still building the lab, which they did. But it's that kind of improvisation and collaboration, that's exactly what Pei and Roberts wanted. I don't know what the half-life of this building is, the half-life of any laboratory. But I'll quote Woody Allen on it. He said, "Eternity is a really long time, especially near the end." But until then, NCAR can take, I think, great pride in commissioning a laboratory that has become its symbol for now and for the foreseeable future, a symbol of its unique culture and one of Pei's signature achievements. Thanks very much. [applause] Thank you, Stuart. Thomas Leslie has taught at Iowa State University since 2000. He's published a number of books on architects, peers of Pei, if we can say it that way, including Louis Kahn's Building Art, Building Science, on the Chicago skyscrapers. And Beauty's Rigor, Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi. Thomas worked in Foster and Partners office before he started his academic career. First, as a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. And as I said, now at Iowa State University. Welcome Thomas. Thank you. I'm delighted to be here. And unfortunately, I have no Woody Allen clips. So you have to bear with me. I wanted to break protocol and start not with Pei's thesis project, which would seem the obvious place to begin a discussion of his museums, but a collage by Mies van der Rohe that certainly was one of many inspirations for him three years later. And of course, what Pei did was to simply add a building to Mies's famously buildingless collages. So the reason for this, I think, will become clear shortly. What's interesting, I think, about Pei's thesis, and the fact that he went on to become such a famous museum designer, is that there's a huge gap in his resume. And as late as the mid-1960s, he had no built work that could be called a major museum. This was an odd gap since the museum was not only an interest of Pei's but it had also been an important architectural debate during his formative years. In the building moratorium during World War II, architectural forums, forward looking 1943 issue, architecture of 1940x devoted several pages to the museum in postwar society. And Mies's assignment was a prototype museum for an imagined new city. And he suggested an agenda that would come true. That the first problem was to establish the museum as a center for enjoyment not the internment of art. As a center instead of a monument, the civic museum faced serious questions in the media rich 1950s and 1960s. It had to balance old and new audiences, to reflect the art's importance, while welcoming broader populations, and to accommodate new art forms no longer accommodated by traditional galleries. When museum commissions finally did arrive in Pei's office for the Everson in Syracuse, which came into the office in 1962, and the Des Moines Arts Center in Iowa, which came in at 1966, his designs balanced Mies's competing themes. Monumentality versus functionality, ordered space versus open plan, and the museum as a sculptural object versus a tectonically expressive architecture. These conflicts were reflected in Pei's material and detailing choices, which balanced and acknowledged brutalist materiality and abstract forms with elements of what Vincent Scully called, in a now long forgotten article, the Precisionist strain. And in detailing this, Scully looked to a school of painting from the '20s and '30s called Precisionism, that featured, in his words, quote, "purity of shape, linearity of detail, and compulsive repetition of elements." Scully argued that this was a particularly American tradition. And that it applied equally to Shaker barns, to colonial houses, and to contemporary work in America that he felt was crisper and more, quote, "precisionist" than the brutalism coming over from Europe. Pei's balances blended diverse influences into a combination of bold form and nuanced detail that was able to win critical acclaim while still proving palatable for an emerging patron class and an enthusiastic public. Helen Everson, a wealthy Syracuse heiress, died in March 1941, leaving her will money for founding a, quote, "Everson Museum of Art," a problematic gift as the city already had a Museum of Fine Arts. After two contentious decades, trustee's from the two organizations joined forces and began plans in 1961 for a new combined building. Their effort aligned with an ambitious though never realized urban plan by Victor Gruen that anticipated over 100 acres of urban renewal in the city's then emptying downtown. Among the anticipated buildings in the master plan was the new Fine Arts Center, a choice for the master plan inspired by two recent upstate New York museum buildings. Gordon Bunshaft's glass addition to the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo finished in 1962. And Philip Johnson's monolithic Munson-Williams Proctor Institute in Utica finished in 1960. In 1961, the Everson's trustees interviewed Mitchell Giurgola, SOM, Pietro Belluschi, and Pei. Belluschi was their final choice, but he actually recommended Pei as a fellow MIT alum. And for a year, Pei worked with the museum's trustees to develop a response to Gruen's plan, understanding that the museum would have to hold its own while the master plans remaining structures were realized. Pei and the museum announced preliminary designs in April 1962. And on the very limited site, just 250 by 100 feet, Pei proposed a, quote, "distinctive and exciting design" of exposed Bush-hammered concrete. Pei was motivated, he said, by the need for the museum to be a work of art itself, something sculptural to stand against the rest of the city, but also by its difficult downtown location. To avoid noise from a nearby steam plant he proposed finally that the museum be focused inward with solid walls and a central court. Public functions, such as an auditorium and an education wing, were pushed below ground, opening up an entry level to an enclosed central lobby that doubled as a welcoming sculpture gallery. Arrayed around this gallery in a pinwheel shaped plan for cantilevered concrete boxes linked by second floor catwalks that contained the galleries proper. Each gallery was cantilevered above an urban square, providing a dramatic monumental presence akin to an oversized piece of minimalist sculpture. Pei's layout achieved several goals. It provided nine gallery spaces, four in the cantilevered boxes plus the two-story central sculpture court, three smaller spaces under the main galleries, and one in the basement that provided a variety of scales. The sculpture court doubled as an entry lobby but it also gave the museum a valuable social space. And it placed these above two vital infrastructural elements. The plaza that linked to the master plans assumed other elements and an underground parking garage and loading dock that whisked traffic away from the pedestrian front. The visitor to the Everson just thus arrives on a subtle plaza that, through its stark palette, highlights the four concrete stalks that form the main galleries while being framed by an auditorium and members lounge to the east and west. Henry Moore's brooding sculpture, two-piece reclining figure number three, provides the urban space with a sculptural focus. Once inside, the sculpture court provides a welcome and orientation, lifting the eye to the bridge connections between galleries above and to a waffle slab ceiling set apart from the four gallery masses by skylights and windows. The circular concrete stairway in the court provides evident access to the upper level. And I think it's kind of interesting to think of this in the library of NCAR that we just saw. But it also functions as a sculptural element itself. And this was praised and criticized by reviewers, who found its dynamic presence either an homage or a competitor to other artworks displayed in this space. Each of the Everson's galleries varies in plan and section. But they share a material palette of oak floors and linen wall linings. These contrast with the structure's rough, exposed concrete, which contains a local red granite aggregate exposed by the Bush-hammered finish. Pei further emphasized this warm textured finished by detailing the corrugations to run diagonally, a subtle foil to the museum's rectilinear forms. Patterned textured detail and material combine in a particularly rich visual experience. Quote, "the carefully arranged and detailed sequences in play of space and light," wrote Ada Louise Huxtable, "the changing views of art forming color, the way the pedestrian moves and experiences and enjoys all this. This," she said, "is architecture." Huxtable became one of Pei's true champions in the '60s. And she went on to describe the Everson as, quote, "comfortably monumental, reflecting its numerous influences." Critics compared it to the stark pilotis supported National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo by Le Corbusier, or to Marcel Breuer's stark concrete forms. But the Everson crucially also won praise for its warmth, blending, according to Harper's editor Russell Lynes, a, quote, "grandeur and scale" with a, quote, "meticulous and caring attention to detail," It's textural range and it's taut dialogues with artwork formed for Huxtable, quote, "an object lesson in art and museology," a conclusion that must have pleased Pei, by this point, an accomplished art collector himself. Pei's next museum commission, for the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa posed different challenges. This center already had a building designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen in 1946 to '48. And it had a Sylvan open site in Greenwood Park, west of the city's downtown. The center was an open museum, with no admission charges, an admission split between arts display in its making, with studios in classrooms occupying one whole wing. The Saarinen's work fit well into Des Moines progressive spirit. The city had become a financial center but it remained hungry for the cultural status that other regional cities had won with imposing civic museums. The Saarinen scheme, though, was an inversion of the prewar museum design principles. Eschewing grandiosity for a rambling s-shaped plan that hugged Greenwood Park's contours. The Saarinen's split their scheme into halves. The plan's eastern end included the education wing, while the western end contained an auditorium, a lobby, and two linear galleries for the museum's collection, wrapped around a long axis that descended into the park's wooded lowlands along an existing rose garden. The Saarinen's terminated this access with a deep reflecting pool wrapped on three sides by the gallery wing's walls and punctuated by a Carl Milles' sculpture Pegasus and Bellerophon. The Saarinen's design was praised for its approachable quality, its emphasis on youth, and its palette of regional limestone. And it exemplified the new agenda for museums as community centers rather than monuments. The entire building "is strictly functional, but simplicity has notable warmth," a local critic wrote. "The style," he wrote, "is modern," explaining to his Midwestern audience, which apparently means honest. By the 1960s, the Art Center's trustees sought to expand its gallery and auditorium facilities. Art had changed in the short decade and a half since the center's opening, and its domestic scale was unable to accommodate sculptural works by new artists, such as Tony Smith or Louise Bourgeois. In 1965, the trustees approached Saarinen's successor firm, Roche-Dinkeloo, about extending the building. But the firm declined. Pei was by this point still without a completed museum building. The delayed Everson would not be open for another two years. Nonetheless, they interviewed him in fall 1965. An Art Center trustee, David Kruidenier, recalled later that Pei, quote, "sketched a plan and elevation so close to the final product that the sheer act of creativity left me breathless." Pei's sketch proposed an aggressive dialogue with the Saarinen's quiet massing. He suggested that the new wing, instead of extending the original building's serpentine logic, could reinvent it by sitting astride the Rose Garden access. Turning the Saarinen's open pool space into a closed courtyard, and linking the gallery wing's end with the joint between the education and gallery wings. This would take advantage of the land's gradual fall away from the pool, allowing Pei to create a double-height gallery space facing the Rose Garden. And making the new sculptural gallery a linking element created a curatorial loop, allowing patrons to see the entire collection without backtracking. This circulatory simplification came with dramatic changes to the courtyard's original conception, Here, Pei employed a subtlety that complemented his bold massing solution. While the new wing's east and west walls are rendered in a heavy Bush-hammered concrete similar to the Eversons, the north and south walls facing the Rose Garden and courtyard are mostly glass, framed with thinner horizontal and vertical concrete elements. Furthermore, in plan, Pei developed this directionality into a framed structure that relies on attenuated concrete fins, also extended in the north-south direction and laid out around a single square bay in the gallery's center. Two staircases, one connecting to the auditorium under the upper gallery level, and the other pulled out to the exterior wall and accessed by a long concrete bridge, emphasize the gallery's visual and spatial grain. Pei's design for the roof is also striking. A large gull wing shaped pair of skylights open to the north and south, bathing the upper and lower galleries in light that is directional and moderated. Ideal conditions for viewing sculpture. Throughout, Pei used simple materials. Corduroy-like Bush-hammered concrete contrasts with plain board formed or as-struck surfaces and with travertine floors and vast glass areas. Limestone aggregate in the concrete reflects the limestone in the Saarinen's original structure. And in addition to closing the courtyard off from the garden, Pei moved the auditorium staircase from the upper gallery out into the courtyard pool. The Milles sculpture was relocated to act as a formal counterpoint to the stair's enclosure, creating a visual balance of metal and concrete, dynamic and static form, that adds a spatial tension to the now intimate rather found in the courtyard. While the Everson's design created a strong, inwardly focused urban form, the Art Center sprung from far different requirements, creating space in harmony with already existing galleries and landscapes. At Des Moines, Pei's building adds a formal grain to the bold minimalist forms of the Everson. The Art Center's double and single height areas reflect the Everson's sectional conception. And the Everson's sculptural stair is repeated in condensed form. The Des Moines project. however, contains no one external point or circuit where the building's sculptural nature can be seen as a whole. Instead, it's experienced as two facades. One facing the courtyard that features the thrusting stair enclosure and axial views. The other from the garden axis that renders the building's circulation, structure, and gallery into an abstract grid of concrete walls and sunshades. The building as a whole is experienced only from inside, highlighting Pei's orchestrated dialogues between ordered form and rough, textured materiality. The importance of space to the Art Center was hinted at by some of Pei's graduate school writing on urbanism. "The essence of a vessel," he wrote, "is its emptiness. A city," he said, "is a vessel too, a container for people and for life." The Art Center reverses the Everson's strong formal presence in exactly this way. It is instead an empty vessel that coheres only as its gallery and landscape circuits are traversed. While its forms have been described as sculptural, the Art Center is not a sculpture, as the Everson is. Instead, it derives its meaning from its relation to the building that completes, the access that it inhabits, and the vessel's visual and textural experience itself. The Art Center's construction was more rapid than the Everson's. And the two actually opened within a few weeks of each other in 1968. The Art Center on October 1, and the Everson on October 27. Together, the buildings struck a similar chord for their monumental presences and inviting spaces, their tough but warm material palates, and their thoughtful if radical approaches to context. Both received AIA honor awards in 1969. The Art Center for its boldly contrived concrete and graceful massiveness. And the Everson for being a, quote, "firm but sympathetic habitation for quiet water and restless art." In 1974, criticizing Gordon Bunshaft's attempt to achieve a similar balance with the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall, Huxtable offered the Everson as an example of how a building could be a container for artwork and a work of art itself. Though her praise, I would argue, could also refer to the Des Moines building. The museum, she wrote, quote, "offers complex and sensitive relationships that make the art come even more alive. Unlike Bunshaft's heavy, lifeless brutality." Pei's conception for both museums was a container that balanced brutalism's bold forms with precisionism's refinements. The Everson and the Art Center are resolute, unapologetic, even aggressive. Yet these initial impacts are followed through with finely scaled spaces, intuitive circulation, and crisp detailing. If in fact Pei was . brutalist. His brutalism was a tailored one, tempering raw materials with more polished ones, and marrying rough surfaces to fine edges. While his plans are diagrammatic, they never appear forced. Rather, they reflect a clear resolution of often competing ideals. Structural order, sculptural form, but also circulation, day lighting, curatorial flexibility, et cetera, into legible spaces. There is none of what Reyner Banham called the bloody mindedness that was brutalism's hallmark, though Pei's stark forms give the appearance of such a relentlessness. He was able in these two projects to achieve a fluent balance between bold, uncompromising forms, which made his work popular in architectural circles, and refined spaces of exquisite sensitivity that appealed more to patrons, donors, and the community alike. This incredible agility to design uncompromising forms that were nevertheless efficient and welcoming helped to make Pei's reputation as a master civic and cultural architect. And subsequent projects furthered these dialogues. The Herbert Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, finished in 1973, extended the Everson's sectional diagram to frankly ludicrous proportions, towering over the campus to provide views over Lake Cayuga. Pei's, quote, "sophisticated mastery of space and light made this a logical extension of his museum design principles," a mixed bag of what Huxtable called essentially conflicting uses that Pei was able to resolve into an elegantly refined solution. The Mellon Center at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut was praised similarly by The New York Times as a, quote, "handsome pile of beige, concrete, and glass." And as yet another thoughtful balancing of conflicting programmatic elements, an 800-seat theater, studios, and art galleries in a building designed to connect two preparatory school campuses. This combination of attention grabbing form with a genteel savoir faire became Pei's signature approach to his greatest art commissions, the East Wing and the Louvre Pyramid. His work to bridge functional, civic, and architectural desires in Syracuse and Des Moines remain consistent in these larger works. And eschewing the areas more dogmatic formalism, for instance, of Bunshaft or a Rudolph, as well as its energetic theorizing, Pei instead negotiated a middle ground that proved productive and appealing. The two personable monuments at Syracuse and Des Moines show Pei's ability to appeal across broad social and cultural spectrums, evidenced by the two building's continued functional and architectural success. Thank you. [applause] Thank you, Thomas. Delin Lai is now professor of art at the history of-- sorry, professor of the history of art at University of Louisville, where he specializes in modern Chinese architecture, cities and their relationship. Sort of east-west dialectic across modernism. He is the lead editor of a five-volume book on the history of Chinese modern architecture published in 2016. Delin. Thank you. And it's a great honor of mine to stand here at the school of Mr. I.M. Pei and to share my understanding of this master, whom I knew of upon I get into college in 1980. And since then, I've admired him. My topic today is "Defining the Present Perfect Tense of I.M. Pei's Space." I.M. Pei is a modernist master, who's distinctive architectural language not only features geometric forms but also in the flowing space to embody or [inaudible] of the form. For Pei, space is both a means of generating architectural drama and more importantly a way to facilitate communication between human nature and even history. This presentation attempts to locate Pei's space in the context of postmodernist architecture and the Chinese architectural tradition. In addition, I also hope to conceptualize space contribution to the modernist concept called space time by expanding it to incorporate the present perfect tense of time. Pei's first design involved the relationship between architectural space and the natural environment was a Museum for Chinese Art, Shanghai. His master of arts project at Harvard Graduate School of Design completed underwater [inaudible] in 1946. In this design he combined several [inaudible],, or small individual garden [inaudible],, arguably the hallmark of his public building designs throughout his later career in the museum, consisting of several pavilions and a stream running through a tea garden. In 1935, Miss [inaudible] had designed a Hooper House as a combination of courtyard and modern residence, which was later named Atrium House. Certainly, this avante-garde design should not have been alien to a GSD student like Pei. But Pei's notion of courtyard space might have received the inference from two more immediate sources. His life experience represents one source. Another is the scholarly work on Chinese Gardens, published in 1930s and 1940s. It is widely known that the Pei grew up in Suzhou, where his family owned the famous Lion Forest Garden that was also his favorite playground. And pay attention to this door here. I will show it later. His later love of garden life was likely also cultivated by two best selling English books on Chinese life and culture published when he was studying in the United States. My Country and My People and The Importance of Living, published in 1936 and '37, respectively, by Lin Yutang. We all know humanist the writer in modern China. Both Lin's books portray idealized mode of living environment that lauded by Chinese gardening, which as he believed could harmonize the relationship between humans and nature. In particular, Lin criticized modern urban life in The Importance of Living by imitating the voice of god, who chastised a man clamoring for heaven with the pearly gates while failing to recognize the beauty of the earth. After saying, I quote, "You presumptuous, ungrateful rat. So this planet is not good enough for you. I would therefore send you to hell where you shall not see the sitting clouds and the flowering trees, nor hear the gurgling brooks and live there forever till the end of your days," end quote. God then punished a man by sending him to live in the city apartment. [laughter] By contrast, Lin praised life in Chinese garden home, seeing that the Chinese house and the garden, I quote, "Present a more intricate aspect that deserves special attention. The principle of harmony with nature is carried further for, in the Chinese conception, the house and the garden are not separate but are parts of organic whole, as evidenced in the frieze yuanchech, or garden home," end quote. Lin's work was part of the first upsurge in research of Chinese gardens in the mid-1930s. The English journal T'ien Hsai Monthly, for which Lin worked, published a series of articles on this subject. Two authors of the journal later became the contributors of the book, Chinese Houses and Gardens, arguably the first English monograph on Chinese gardens, which was edited by Shao Change Lee, with photos taken by Henry Inn, and published in 1940. And GSD has this collection since November 7, 1940, the time when Pei was here. And also pay attention to this gate in this book. So I believe, if I.M. Pei saw this book he will feel homesick. In light of the new trend of the modernist design and the new interest in Chinese garden tradition, it is not surprising to see the inclusion of the ancient, or even the garden, in the designs of young generation of modern Chinese architects. Pei's first home was such a yuanchech in which he and his wife created a little garden. As he said in the interview, it is, I quote, "very small but very Chinese. With some crosses and flowers, which reminded us of China." I don't know whether Mr. Sandy Pei remembered this house. He also implied the idea of courtyard in the design of a campus building at Tonghai University in Taiwan in 1953. Wang Gaohong. a Chinese peer of Pei at Harvard, who also lived in Suzhou in the early 1930s designed an ancient townhouse, and published in the Interior magazine in January 1945. Mr. Wang Gaohong also celebrated his 100 birthday this year. Though the magazine's editor seemingly intended to link Wang's design to Greco-Roman architecture tradition, it is clear that Wang was envisioning a garden house with Chinese influence when he added to such details as the hanging scroll here, and the painting flower arrangement, and in particular, the fish pond with lotus leaves, and dwarfed the trees. Wang continued his idea in houses he designed in Taiwan for a number of clients, with details from Chinese Houses and Gardens. And see, he used the details from that book. So did Chinese-American architect Yao [? chin huang, ?] a student of Mies van der Rohe at Illinois Institute of Technology in the early 1950s. [? huang ?] also received recognition for the Atrium Houses he designed in Chicago during the 1960s. Certainly, Pei had more opportunities than both Wang and [? huang ?] to interpret the idea of the Atrium House for large scale public building designs, as has been widely recognized. In addition to natural elements, Pei's designs emphasize the importance of space, which, I quote, "motivated the people to move in buildings," end quote. Pei's notion of movement echoes what Le Corbusier called architecture promenade. It also reminds us of the concept of space time, of space-time, that Sigfried Gideon, then professor of the GSD, codified in his 1941 book, Space, Time, and Architecture, the growth of a new tradition. In this modern classic, Gideon delineated an architectural history with the development of architectural space as the key criterion in defining different historical periods. Modern architecture differs from previous traditions by making movement a part of spatial experience. Modern space is no longer just three-dimensional, but also combines time. Though Gideon's notion was new to most students of modern architecture, it might not have been fresh to Pei an others, who were acquainted with the spiritual experience of Chinese gardens. In the 1950s, some Chinese architects, who encountered the concept of, quote, unquote, "flowing space," already recognized its similarity with the Chinese idea of [inaudible],, all views changes with the moving of [? places. ?] Pei also discussed the significance of movement in his architecture in terms of Chinese garden. Quote, "Movement is something I learned from the Chinese gardens. Chinese gardens are always built in a very small place because there are so many people and the land is so limited. Within a very small place of land, one can create a maximum variety. Why? Because of the constantly changing perspective. It is the opposite of garden like Versai. The Oriental garden is designed to engage the visitor with a series of surprises. Once you think you have seen the most exciting object, a rock or something, and you turn around and see something else, and then you turn again. Constant movement and the change. In designing space you also have to do that. You have to create surprises so that you make people want to discover more. You make people turn left, turn right, or go straight ahead. So you do have to motivate. That is the work you have to use. People to look and explore." Pei's Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing, which opened in 1982 was his first large public project that showed his reinterpretation of Chinese architectural traditions. This work came at a time when the international world of architecture was witnessing the popularization of postmodernism and [inaudible] its new criteria, such as meaning, legibility, and the double [? coats ?] were challenging the modernist pursuit of function, abstraction, as well as, quote, unquote, "designers meaning." I must wrap up at 10:00. In China, the search for an architecture with Chinese characteristics had also been underway for nearly a century. Pei is regarded either the curve of the roof and the decorative motifs in pride by many Chinese architects. Or what Charles Jencks called, "the metaphorical exaggeration of syntax distortion in popular postmodern works." Instead, hoped to, quote, "find out a new approach as a small token to pay the cultural debt that I owed to where I was from," end quote. In his hotel design, Pei selected three merits from different sources in the Chinese architectural tradition and reinterpreted them from a modernist perspective. The first is the purity of the white painted wall with gray tile trim associated with the vernacular architecture in South China, especially Suzhou. The second is the movement facilitated in the free plan of Chinese gardens and the interaction between interior space and exterior environment in this plan. The third is the simplicity of geometric forms of circle and square. The combined motif circles, square, and square circle appeared as the first illustration in the Song Dynasty architectural manual, Ying Zao Fa Shi. And they were introduced in Chinese Lattice Designs, an English book published in 1974 by Daniel Sheets Dye. Though with slight variations, Pei's Miho Museum in Kyoto, and the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, two of his other Asian designs, also embodied the three merits of the Fragrant Hill Hotel. Their special design, which combines the views of the natural surroundings with movement, demonstrate a half-century later, the development of Pei's atrium design in his Harvard GSD project. What makes the flowing space in Pei's Chinese and the Japanese cases different from the Corbusian architectural promenade is their association with Chinese history. For example, the stone platform of the Floating Cup Canal in the garden of the Fragrant Hill Hotel is the symbolic artifact referring to [inaudible] preface to the poems collected from the orchid pavilion. The breach of Miho Museum is a spatial illusion to Tao Yuan Ming's poem, "Peach Blossom Valley." In designing the Suzhou Museum, Pei transplanted into his interior a branch of ivy planted by [inaudible],, an ancient remains of [inaudible] administrator gardens. He does run to the new architecture of the first 21st century with the personal touch of the [inaudible] artist [inaudible].. One might say that compares with Le Corbusier and Gideon's concept. The most significant development made by Pei is the tense of the space. But the concept of these two modernist masters involves no tense other than the present one. Pei's Asian designs expected present perfect tense through their use of allusions. Namely, the historical associations with Chinese art and the literature. Different from, quote, unquote, "past tense of the revivalist design," as well as, quote, unquote, "future tense of the futurist designs," the present perfect tense connects the past and the present. Thus adding a historical dimension to the continuum of visitors' spatial experience. And convert such experiences into a conversation between the cultural legacy of the past and the life in the present. The present perfect tense can often be experienced in Chinese literature and painting, which use allusion, inscription, or collage to expand the dimension of time expected by language or visual form. In Chinese architecture, especially in scenic sites and the gardens, designers who wish to create a poetic environment have always favored directive elements that brings his [inaudible] past to the present. For instance, a hole in the Lion Forest Garden is named the Li Xue, or Standing in Snow. It refers to the story about a sixth century man, Huike, who waited in the snow outside a cave for Bodhidharma's teaching when the latter was in meditation. With the cypress tree in the courtyard, a pavilion in the second garden is named Zhibo, or Pointing to a Cypress. Alluding to the story of famous Song Dynasty [inaudible] Buddhist master, [? chou ?] [? zhou, ?] who repeatedly pointed to a cypress tree as a way to divert a student from his obsession in study. And the hall, named [? yun lin ?] [? yi ?] [? yun, ?] or the Lofty Spirit of Yun Lin, reminds visitors of the Yuan Dynasty master [? li zan. ?] Besides the textural inscriptions or historical names, ancient remains and symbolic artifacts also help expand historical dimension of a spatial environment. In the Lion Forest Garden, for example, there are [? boundful ?] steles with inscriptions of ancient masters or historical figures, including the piece attributed to the Song Dynasty hero [inaudible],, and the Qing Emperor Chienlong, as well as all the trees, including those named, five ancient pines, and the Flying Dragon I distinguish these artifacts as ancient remains. Whereas a [? hua ?] [? fan ?] or [? stump out ?] [inaudible] upper structure in this garden can be taken as a symbolic artifact. Though incapable of moving itself, its anchoressless feature makes it a visualization of [inaudible] or a boat without docking lines. An analogy made by the Taoist master Zhuangzi to an [inaudible] individual. To borrow Charles Sanders Perce's semiotic terms, the inscription, ancient remains, and the symbolic artifacts are indices, icons, and the symbols, respectively. As signs, they help create spatial illusions and hence, expand historical dimension of Chinese gardens. The Peach Blossom Spring, the branch of ivy cultivated by [? wen ?] [? hang ?] [? shan, ?] as well as the 14 Cup Canal in Pei's architecture as such signs. Pei may have read Lin Yutang's works and Henry Inn's Chinese Houses and Gardens. But he may have benefited more immediately from his direct communication with Chen Congzhou a distinguished scholar of gardens. Pei under Chen knew each other in the late 1970s when Chen was working on [inaudible] Chinese Garden Court for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Pei sought advice from Chen while then designing the Fragrant Hill Hotel. In addition to a scholar Chen was also a part painter, calligrapher and a keen lover of tea drinking and the [inaudible] opera. His discussion of Chen's gardens thus took the perspective of the literati scholar as qualified viewer. In the opening chapter of his well-known work, [? shuo ?] [? yuan, ?] On Chinese Gardens, Chen regarded the cultural interest as a complementary factor contributing to the beauty of Chinese gardens. He said, I quote, "Why is it that Chinese scenic places and the [inaudible] gardens attract countless visitors. And one can view them over 100 times without even ever being satiated." No doubt, the beauty of the scenery is an important reason. But the cultural and the history are other key factors. I've already mentioned that object of cultural interest and historical side in recent exports and the gardens. And produce even greater pleasure. And the broad association in visitors, who will not then come merely to sightsee, eat, and take a cup of tea. By incorporating historical dimension in the space of Fragrant Hill Hotel, Niho Museum, and the Suzhou Museum, Pei not only responded to both his patrons and the postmodernist desire for cultural associations and architectural meaning, but also expanded a modernistic concept of space-time with a tense. In China, two well-known architects, Feng Jizhong and the much younger Wang Shu, also endeavored to render their architectural space with the patina of time. With structures of different historical periods displayed on one site, Feng's Square Pagoda Garden in Shanghai showcases his idea of [inaudible],, or creating newness out of antique. So too does the Pritzker Laureate Wang, who is known for his creative use of old building materials collected from demolishing site. If Feng and Wang's strategy can best be called a collage aligned with ideas of painting, the ancient Chinese associations in Pei's designs, for example, for expanding the dimension of time can be aligned with allusion embedded in literature. The collage approach resorts to visual sources. And the allusion approach resorts to history and the literature ones. Where the former helps to make Feng and Wang's designs picturesque, the latter, by enriching the expression of function of a built environment, helps to make Pei's abstract modern design poetic. Thank you very much. [applause] Thank you. Thank you all. I'll ask the panelists to join, to gather at the table, please. So we actually have a good bit of time for discussion. And I do want to be able to turn to the audience quickly. And I'd also like to try to make this, if it's possible, not so much Q & A as conversation. We'll see if we can do that. I'll suggest some things. So one of the things that's come up a couple of times just in last night and today was, for example, Andre Bideau and I were talking about while there's not a dearth of publication-- it's not that there's no publications on Pei. There are plenty of coffee table books. And certainly, he's as well known outside the profession as any architect. Maybe in the profession he's one among many, but outside the profession he's surely one of the best known American architects, or even global architects. But there is a dearth of serious interpretive work and serious theorizing or researching of Pei's work. And I'd like to reflect on that a little bit, if we could, why that's the case. Comparisons came up today. Not so much Kahn, though, there might have been more comparisons to Kahn. Some of you have worked on Kahn. But certainly, Breuer, Bunshaft. And these are people who PhD students do dissertations on them. I don't know that there's a-- I'm sure there is several dissertations on Pei. He doesn't seem to be someone that presents interpretive problems. And I'd like to try to explore why that is. It can't be because he did, let's say, he did some great work and some mediocre work. He produced more buildings than any of the others. But all the others had mediocre work as well. That's just the nature of the profession. So that can't be it. Is it that he was too-- was he formulaic? I was struck that between the museum in the Mes-- sorry, the Everson, sorry. The Everson Museum and the Mesa Lab, both around 1961. So they were very close together. I'm not saying they're alike but they certainly have at bottom a kind of fondness for the inverted L. I mean, the Mesa Lab is much more broken up. But I wouldn't say it's adjusted to the site. It's still placed on the site. If you compare some of Corbusier's work, the late work in Chendigarh, it's there because of the site. And he's constantly drawing it. Whereas, I feel like Pei is placing it. And I wonder, is he too formulaic, is he too certain of his form that it doesn't present a problem of interpretation? Is the talk about-- and I don't know if we still have people who were in the office maybe when some of these things were done. There was a lot of talk last night and back at another Pei conference about material. The lecture this morning, it was absolutely, it's fascinating to hear how the office dealt with material. But but does that take away-- remember our panel is "Form and Space"-- so does that take away from complicated issues of form or does that take away from interpreting it in broader, less technical terms, less empirical terms and more in cultural terms, in historical terms? Could we reflect on that? Well, I think, why aren't there more kind of scholarly and critical work on Pei. Is that your question? As I think we see, Pei didn't have an avant-garde moment. He spent that point in his life working for a developer, which you could think of as being a very rebellious thing to do, but typically in that way. I don't know if the work feels like it's forward, at the avant-garde at a particular moment, which I think, is what architectural history is still looking for. Those firsts and those origins at moments. And as we've been talking about, the practice to its credit was so professional and so gained establishment clients so immediately that I think there's a preference in academia for rebels and outsiders, both as personalities and also a work that has that sort of difficulty to it. And as we see, the work is so accomplished. At least, though, I've thought about that too. I think the opening comparison of Pei to McKim, Mead & White was very apropos. It took a long time for there to be any kind of academic treatment of McKim, Mead & White, as well. And I would wonder if Pei wouldn't also then be subject in a generation or so to that same type of serious treatment that McKim, Mead & White received. It took some time. [inaudible] I think that's true. I think there's a fine line between fluency and facility. And fluency is admirable but it's not particularly romantic. Or it doesn't maybe have a strong narrative to it. And having worked on Kahn, where everything was a struggle. And everything had a kind of story to it. The better Pei's buildings are almost like the more boring the stories is. He comes into an impossible problem and very cleverly figures it out and executes it brilliantly. And that makes for fantastic buildings. But as a scholar, I think, sometimes you do want more complexity or more difficulty, something with little more tooth to it. And I think that's one of the challenges, I think, of establishing a Pei scholarship, is what's at stake essentially. And I think the parallel to McKim, Mead & White there is a good one. The scholarship on that McKim, Mead & White is often looking at sources and comparing how the practice worked. And I think that especially from the session this morning, I think, one of the clearer paths that could be developed is the fact that Pei gets very little credit for all of the technical innovation that clearly he established. And that strikes me as probably the most fruitful direction maybe. [inaudible] I agree with Tom. This morning's discussion are very quite thought provoking. And the dimension, as an architectural historian, is overlooked for quite a long time. So the technology part. And in terms of form and other concepts, I think, Pei's designs are not very avant-garde and are not very revolutionary. But he can bring the principles of modernism into perfect ease, and also make avant-garde classic. So this is a kind of beauty. We can use J.J. Winckelmann's term, "the noble simplicity and the quiet beauty." So he rendered modern architecture with the flavor of classicism. This is what I understand about Pei's design. I think he is always a noble man, a gentleman in life and in design. I guess I would say he was too good at working with his clients. If I compare him with Saarinen, Saarinen says, here's your laboratory, live in it. Pei is somebody who is willing to compromise, rethink, and restructure. And again, it makes a big difference. Delin's suggesting something that I was fascinated with. You didn't have a lot of time to develop it. And I was going to try to bring some of the other projects into Delin's idea of the present perfect. The present perfect tense is the one that, I've been looking at this cypress tree a long time now. It's in the past but it's still continuing into the present. And I found that fascinating. But then, I began to think, and it was quite compelling the idea that the Chinese garden, which he was well aware of, and also literate in the study of. I found that very compelling. But to me, that might be a little bit different notion of time than one in which the building itself somehow registers time or retraces time. And I was struck again that the Bush-hammered concrete, for example, it might be a kind of act of archaisizing the project, aging it intentionally. But I've always been fascinated, as the Seagram Building, now that they've stopped cleaning it and washing it, it's taken on this patina on the bronze. That it almost looks archaic rather than modern. And I wonder if there's something about that. On the other hand, Pei's work, does it seem to trace-- it doesn't seem to age. It seems to always be new, or it always should be new. Who was it that said brutalism versus pristinism-- Precisionism. Yeah, precisionism. Brutalism versus precisionism. And it was that dialectic, which I like very much, but that's seems a dielectric that takes place in the present not in the past. I'm not sure. But all of the buildings, except for, well, Danny didn't mention this because it was more of an urban project. But within the buildings there was always traces of movement, or there was always formal-- the stairs are pulled out and they're exaggerated, and the handrails are solid And this idea of movement through space and movement through time. That I think, was something that began to thicken Delin's idea of a present perfect. I don't know if that occurs throughout the work more than the projects we saw today. And I would like to suggest that probably some buildings he designed, also just like Louvre used pyramid. This is a symbol of history. And also, what's the name of the concert hall in Texas? [inaudible] They're a large circle. Meyerson. Oh, yes, Meyerson Concert Hall. Actually, I think this circle came from Richardson. So, the arch. But Pei just exaggerated it. So this kind of connection with previous tradition, with previous masters, I think, in Pei's later work is, to me, is noticeable. Although, he probably didn't or have not elaborated. But give me some sense. Coming back, maybe asking for a little more comment on the site planning. The planning of the Des Moines project is exquisite. It's smart but it's also beautiful. It's beyond smart in the way we needed a section through the hill to see that. And that seemed to be a high point for me. I also felt like in Des Moines, because of more constraint because of having to work on top of the Saarinen, I thought it was one of the most beautiful solutions and one of the most open in the sense of like you open up, like you make yourself available to. You become responding and inviting. I guess it was more inviting. But let's come back to the other. Danny was very critical of the early, earlier urbanistic attempts. And one realizes it comes back, first of all, to issues of patronage. Developers and cities and states don't make maybe as ideal patrons as museum directors. And that's part of it. The other thing that I couldn't understand fully was exactly how much room did he have to operate? It was difficult to tell where was the designer making the decision and where was the BRA, or whatever would have been the facility planning making the decisions. And also, it comes back to last night-- yes, sorry, the days are running together-- to this issue of the office organization. Was a young Harry Cobb just handed this because it was so unpromising? We talked last night about how in the Pei office from the start, the principal designers were given a lot of autonomy. Is this just giving it to Harry to get his teeth? Or is urbanism not part of the primary parameter? If you think of the Hancock building and Bill Pederson's highrises as being the peak of the legacy of Pei's urbanism, they're all very singular, monolithic objects in the city. And I'm wondering if that tendency, that sensibility, it just wasn't the right project for him, or something. Michael, to answer the question about the limitations. As I would understand it, is that the Pei office was brought in not to author the plan but to give it an authority. That is, it was a big name and for whatever reason, Adams, Howard and Greeley just was not seemed to be up to the task of finishing and refining the plan. I think that has much to do with was preparing it for submission for review and approval and up to the federal authorities. And also, Pei's office had a staff to do it. In terms of why Cobb got it? I can only say that Cobb said to me, it was because he really cared about urban issues. And that he was the one who was at that time really thinking about urbanism and the city scale. I think when Cobb spoke last spring he talked about how his own thesis work at Harvard was at the scale of the city. And that, even though Cobb said that the firm was always interested in civic architecture, that Pei himself was more interested in the architectural end. So I don't know. That's the impression that I got. But it was clearly a project without much opportunity for the Pei office to do anything. I think they were brought into quickly refine it and get the documents set. I think it would be misleading to think that because it's upon a mountain that the Mesa Lab is somehow not an urban project. It was. It was required by Boulder approval to move a water line beyond what it had been. It's hidden. You don't appreciate Pei's genius until you drive up it. It's about a 6% grade. And so you see it, then it disappears. You see it again and then you turn into the plaza. But it was very much within an urban plan of Boulder. It's not a rural site in that sense. What's surprising about the Boulder site, since I only saw it once, since I worked in the office and I do some of the rendering, dotting the little trees, I was surprised to see that directly below it, which you don't see in photographs, it's a conventional housing development. There are homes very close by. Had the camera moved just a little bit more you will see suburbia right there. Let me see if I can help identify how projects are assigned in the office. Not in the early days, but gradually as the name of the office changed. On one occasion I receive a phone call. And it had to do, I've forgotten. The name of its on aging. [inaudible] No, there's a laboratory. [inaudible] Buck's. Yeah, Buck Center on Aging. The operator happened to give me the telephone because Mr. Pei was not there. And so I answered on behalf of the office. And the person specifically asked for Mr. Pei. So later on, I thought nothing more of it until, evidently, time came to decide whether to take the commission or not. And I.M., Mr. Pei called me in and said, tell me exactly what happened in the phone call. So I said, I mentioned your name. He said, that's all I need to know. So oftentimes, when projects come into in the office, it's a question of which partner responded, without any infighting, so you take it. I've never been into a partner's meeting. I only reached the role of an associate partner, so one rank below. And I suspect, that assignments generally were made as to who the rainmaker was. Harry, Boston is virtually his territory. And a lot of projects he knows about. And so, it's very calm and very easy for him to assume the responsibility. It was helpful. Can I ask you something? Thank you. This is apropos of placing a building into a site. I think specifically with regard to with NCAR, that South Tower that was not built. That really was intended to really grasp onto the Mesa. And that would have changed that dynamic entirely. Taking it a further step. The way that buildings are placed, there is kind of a running joke I have with myself that the site is only the beginning. And that, really, where the journey begins is on your front door. They took into account what the approach streets were, what the metro system was. Every aspect of urbanism factored into the building and how it was sighted. In Kipps Bay, that being a megablock, how it was divided up to [inaudible] it's great synography, but of a profound level. So I don't think it's so much a placement in. I think it is critically related to all of the factors that surround the site. That's very helpful. I think somehow I feel like we historians, critics, interpreters don't have the right lens yet for Pei and the Pei office. In so far as all of you, all of us today, we haven't gotten much beyond-- the best one is brutalism versus precisionism. We haven't gotten much beyond a received view of this work, which is that it's all about the concrete. The concrete is clearly important but there's so much more about the buildings, it seems from your comment, that don't have to do with the purely visible. That there's a lot of things going on that are out of sight, that contribute to the inhabitation and the use and the experience of the building that don't always come out in the photographs or even the drawings, if you don't look at them right. I felt that a lot about Pei's work. That the full experience of it-- the video that programs had been made of the Pei, for example. They're always about light because video's very good at demonstrating how light works. And yet, you can't study that unless you go there. And I think that's what I mean by we have a limited vocabulary for, or a limited lens for looking at some of these buildings that I think maybe conferences like this should prompt. I'm hoping students will start to pick up on this idea that the invisible part of some of these projects. May I just [inaudible] one other thing? Thinking back to your question earlier about why, in fact, there's not been serious scholarship? I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the buildings being so popular that there isn't a perceived need to go any deeper. But knowing what I do about certain projects, I think there are great stories in there. But they're not immediately apparent. And so I think the initial interest in it is in the form and the popularity of it. And then it's on to something else. But no one goes really deep in. No, that's helpful. Other comments from the audience? Yes. Hang on just one, until we get the microphone. Delin, I was interested in the origins of his Chinese association with gardens, as well as then I'm going to extrapolate into the Japanese period, which was collateral to Pei, such as Kenzo Tange, who was a brutalist but he was also influenced by traditional Japanese architecture. And then, [? machi, ?] who is always was one of my great favorites, also was a GSD a guy. And [? arratti ?] [? saki ?] then did a show at the Cooper-Hewitt, which, regrettably, I didn't get a chance to go to, which was [? ma ?] space. And [? ma ?] space is a characteristic of in that case, the Japanese interpretation of space, which is quite elaborate. It is not just isolated to one idea but it stretches and it penetrates. And I'm interested in Pei's Chinese association with space, modernist interpretation of space, which to some extent, might have been more Vitruvian or golden section oriented. But that there is a naturalism in the East Asian view towards space, which might be a little different than modernism. Which could be a kick into the architectural forms in a way that Western architects don't necessarily get. Delin, can you speak to this? I'm sorry. I haven't fully probably digested your question. But in terms of-- The question would be more like the contrasting styles from which the modernist movements arise from the two different points of view. Oh, you mean Japanese and the Chinese. Versus Western. Versus Western. If that's true. I was just going to suggest, for example, the clear geometric underpinning of Pei. I think a Westerner sees it differently than your work asks us to see it. Even the use of geometry. Yes. I think my attention with Pei [inaudible] the interaction between the building and the surrounding environment. This is the part I think are interesting in place design. But in terms of the building itself, and also the space inside probably is more Western, I think. There was also, just to mention one other thing that was very beautiful in what you said at the end. That Pei's work was more literary than visual. Yes. So this reminds me of the literature. And this is a little bit different from even Japanese garden. The Japanese garden invites you to sit there and meditate. So under no inscription, under allusion. So this is just the object. But in Chinese architecture, you're always encouraged to think about history, think about literature. So this is even in Eastern Asia, the two traditions are also different. Calvin. I didn't mean to interject, but I think I may have a little bit of insight. I used to watch I.M. draw. And with what little knowledge I have of my shared heritage, since I didn't grow up there, I noticed there's something extremely calligraphic, as in China [inaudible] A stroke, a dot, a plant. And I just see him draw, regardless of whether it's a modernist design, or postmodernist, or historically, or iconographically, semantically motivated work. There's always that underpinning. And as you, Delin, you illustrated the idea of, courtyard both from an early modernist of interior exterior volume space dialectic. How that sometimes overlapped with certain Asian thinking. And the fact that modernism also took its inspiration from the East in the very early moments. So it's very hard to split it to the East-West dialectic. Yeah, absolutely. But there's one more thing that, Calivn, your comment made me think of. And it goes back to the literary. There is something about Pei's best work. I always think of it, and the Mesa, for me, does this. It's like a divination, how, I'm thinking of people-- what do they call it when you have a stick and you find water? Divining. Dividing, divining. It's almost like those buildings, the best of them are divining something about the world. And I think part of it for me has to do with an almost totemic quality of some of the forms. I was a little bit criticizing him before, but in their isolation and in their dialogue-- but almost like a negative dialogue sometimes with the side. I don't mean negative, I mean like their confidence about being there. There's almost a divination about there being in the world that comes from, I think, a figural quality that Breuer doesn't have, Bunshaft certainly doesn't have, and even Kahn-- Coming back to Delin's comment, I think this literary of what you call poetic, we'd have to be more precise what we mean by that but. But there's something there that is not easily articulable in words that's much more of corporeal but also soulful. It's almost like you want to hook into the universe, at its best. And I love that a person in an office can do that and also do the normal work, the McKim, Mead & White work, and can have still those dimensions. That just comes back to the discussion last night about the diversity of the office, I think. We should stop and have a break so that we have plenty of time for the next session. Thank you very much. And thank the panelists. [applause]



Men and women stand on curving rock formations overlooking a pond containing flowery plants.
As a child, Pei found the Shizilin Garden in Suzhou to be "an ideal playground".[2]

Pei's ancestry traces back to the Ming Dynasty, when his family moved from Anhui province to Suzhou, but most importantly his family were directors of the Bank of China which later on funded the construction of important projects including the Kips Bay project in New York. They also found wealth in the sale of medicinal herbs, the family stressed the importance of helping the less fortunate.[3] Ieoh Ming Pei was born on 26 April 1917 to Tsuyee Pei and Lien Kwun, and the family moved to Hong Kong one year later. The family eventually included five children. As a boy, Pei was very close to his mother, a devout Buddhist who was recognized for her skills as a flautist. She invited him, his brothers, and his sisters to join her on meditation retreats.[4] His relationship with his father was less intimate. Their interactions were respectful but distant.[5]

Pei's ancestors' success meant that the family lived in the upper echelons of society, but Pei said his father was "not cultivated in the ways of the arts".[6] The younger Pei, drawn more to music and other cultural forms than to his father's domain of banking, explored art on his own. "I have cultivated myself," he said later.[5]

At the age of ten, Pei moved with his family to Shanghai after his father was promoted. Pei attended Saint Johns Middle School, run by Protestant missionaries. Academic discipline was rigorous; students were allowed only one half-day each month for leisure. Pei enjoyed playing billiards and watching Hollywood movies, especially those of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. He also learned rudimentary English skills by reading the Bible and novels by Charles Dickens.[7]

Pedestrians walk before a row of trees and a series of tall buildings. A blue sky overhead is obscured slightly by several clouds.
Pei describes the architecture of Shanghai's Bund waterfront area (seen here in a 2006 photo) as "very much a colonial past".[8]

Shanghai's many international elements gave it the name "Paris of the East".[9] The city's global architectural flavors had a profound influence on Pei, from the Bund waterfront area to the Park Hotel, built in 1934. He was also impressed by the many gardens of Suzhou, where he spent the summers with extended family and regularly visited a nearby ancestral shrine. The Shizilin Garden, built in the 14th century by a Buddhist monk, was especially influential. Its unusual rock formations, stone bridges, and waterfalls remained etched in Pei's memory for decades. He spoke later of his fondness for the garden's blending of natural and human-built structures.[2][7]

Soon after the move to Shanghai, Pei's mother developed cancer. As a pain reliever, she was prescribed opium, and assigned the task of preparing her pipe to Pei. She died shortly after his thirteenth birthday, and he was profoundly upset.[10] The children were sent to live with extended family; their father became more consumed by his work and more physically distant. Pei said: "My father began living his own separate life pretty soon after that."[11] His father later married a woman named Aileen, who moved to New York later in her life.[12]

Education and formative years

A man wearing a grey sweater and a fedora squats near an open box, holding a small canvas bag.
Pei said "Bing Crosby's films in particular had a tremendous influence on my choosing the United States instead of England to pursue my education."[13]

As Pei, neared the end of his secondary education, he decided to study at a university. He was accepted to a number of schools, but decided to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania.[14] Pei's choice had two roots. While studying in Shanghai, he had closely examined the catalogs for various institutions of higher learning around the world. The architectural program at the University of Pennsylvania stood out to him.[15] The other major factor was Hollywood. Pei was fascinated by the representations of college life in the films of Bing Crosby, which differed tremendously from the academic atmosphere in China. "College life in the U.S. seemed to me to be mostly fun and games", he said in 2000. "Since I was too young to be serious, I wanted to be part of it ... You could get a feeling for it in Bing Crosby's movies. College life in America seemed very exciting to me. It's not real, we know that. Nevertheless, at that time it was very attractive to me. I decided that was the country for me."[16]

In 1935 Pei boarded a boat and sailed to San Francisco, then traveled by train to Philadelphia. What he found, however, differed vastly from his expectations. Professors at the University of Pennsylvania based their teaching in the Beaux-Arts style, rooted in the classical traditions of Greece and Rome. Pei was more intrigued by modern architecture, and also felt intimidated by the high level of drafting proficiency shown by other students. He decided to abandon architecture and transferred to the engineering program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Once he arrived, however, the dean of the architecture school commented on his eye for design and convinced Pei to return to his original major.[17]

MIT's architecture faculty was also focused on the Beaux-Arts school, and Pei found himself uninspired by the work. In the library he found three books by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. Pei was inspired by the innovative designs of the new International style, characterized by simplified form and the use of glass and steel materials. Le Corbusier visited MIT in November 1935, an occasion which powerfully affected Pei: "The two days with Le Corbusier, or 'Corbu' as we used to call him, were probably the most important days in my architectural education."[18] Pei was also influenced by the work of US architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1938 he drove to Spring Green, Wisconsin, to visit Wright's famous Taliesin building. After waiting for two hours, however, he left without meeting Wright.[19]

A portrait photograph of a middle-aged man with bushy white hair, wearing a dark suit
Pei attempted to meet renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but gave up after waiting for two hours.[19]

Although he disliked the Beaux-Arts emphasis at MIT, Pei excelled in his studies. "I certainly don't regret the time at MIT", he said later. "There I learned the science and technique of building, which is just as essential to architecture."[20] Pei received his B.Arch. degree in 1940.[21]

While visiting New York City in the late '30s, Pei met a Wellesley College student named Eileen Loo. They began dating and they married in the spring of 1942. She enrolled in the landscape architecture program at Harvard University, and Pei was thus introduced to members of the faculty at Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD). He was excited by the lively atmosphere, and joined the GSD in December 1942.[22]

Less than a month later, Pei suspended his work at Harvard to join the National Defense Research Committee, which coordinated scientific research into US weapons technology during World War II. Pei's background in architecture was seen as a considerable asset; one member of the committee told him: "If you know how to build you should also know how to destroy."[23] The fight against Germany was ending, so he focused on the Pacific War. The US realized that its bombs used against the stone buildings of Europe would be ineffective against Japanese cities, mostly constructed from wood and paper; Pei was assigned to work on incendiary bombs. Pei spent two and a half years with the NDRC, but has revealed few details.[24]

In 1945 Eileen gave birth to a son, T'ing Chung; she withdrew from the landscape architecture program in order to care for him. Pei returned to Harvard in the autumn of 1945, and received a position as assistant professor of design. The GSD was developing into a hub of resistance to the Beaux-Arts orthodoxy. At the center were members of the Bauhaus, a European architectural movement that had advanced the cause of modernist design. The Nazi regime had condemned the Bauhaus school, and its leaders left Germany. Two of these, Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, took positions at the Harvard GSD. Their iconoclastic focus on modern architecture appealed to Pei, and he worked closely with both men.[25]

One of Pei's design projects at the GSD was a plan for an art museum in Shanghai. He wanted to create a mood of Chinese authenticity in the architecture without using traditional materials or styles.[26] The design was based on straight modernist structures, organized around a central courtyard garden, with other similar natural settings arranged nearby. It was very well received; Gropius, in fact, called it "the best thing done in [my] master class".[26] Pei received his M.Arch. degree in 1946, and taught at Harvard for another two years.[1][27]


1948–56: Early career with Webb and Knapp

In the spring of 1948 Pei was recruited by New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf to join a staff of architects for his firm of Webb and Knapp to design buildings around the country. Pei found Zeckendorf's personality the opposite of his own; his new boss was known for his loud speech and gruff demeanor. Nevertheless, they became good friends and Pei found the experience personally enriching. Zeckendorf was well connected politically, and Pei enjoyed learning about the social world of New York's city planners.[28]

His first project for Webb and Knapp was an apartment building with funding from the Housing Act of 1949. Pei's design was based on a circular tower with concentric rings. The areas closest to the supporting pillar handled utilities and circulation; the apartments themselves were located toward the outer edge. Zeckendorf loved the design and even showed it off to Le Corbusier when they met. The cost of such an unusual design was too high, however, and the building never moved beyond the model stage.[29]

Pei's first project (1949) 131 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta
Pei's first project (1949)
131 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta

Pei finally saw his architecture come to life in 1949,[30] when he designed a two-story corporate building for Gulf Oil in Atlanta, Georgia. The building was demolished in February 2013 although the front facade will be retained as part of an apartment development. His use of marble for the exterior curtain wall brought praise from the journal Architectural Forum.[31] Pei's designs echoed the work of Mies van der Rohe in the beginning of his career as also shown in his own weekend-house in Katonah in 1952. Soon Pei was so inundated with projects that he asked Zeckendorf for assistants, which he chose from his associates at the GSD, including Henry N. Cobb and Ulrich Franzen. They set to work on a variety of proposals, including the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall. The team also redesigned the Webb and Knapp office building, transforming Zeckendorf's office into a circular space with teak walls and a glass clerestory. They also installed a control panel into the desk that allowed their boss to control the lighting in his office. The project took one year and exceeded its budget, but Zeckendorf was delighted with the results.[32]

Pei wanted the open spaces and buildings of L'Enfant Plaza to be "functionally and visually related" to one another.[33]
Pei wanted the open spaces and buildings of L'Enfant Plaza to be "functionally and visually related" to one another.[33]

In 1952 Pei and his team began work on a series of projects in Denver, Colorado. The first of these was the Mile High Center, which compressed the core building into less than twenty-five percent of the total site; the rest is adorned with an exhibition hall and fountain-dotted plazas.[34] One block away, Pei's team also redesigned Denver's Courthouse Square, which combined office spaces, commercial venues, and hotels. These projects helped Pei conceptualize architecture as part of the larger urban geography. "I learned the process of development," he said later, "and about the city as a living organism."[35] These lessons, he said, became essential for later projects.[35]

Pei and his team also designed a united urban area for Washington, D.C., L'Enfant Plaza (named for French-American architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant).[36] Pei's associate Araldo Cossutta was the lead architect for the plaza's North Building (955 L'Enfant Plaza SW) and South Building (490 L'Enfant Plaza SW).[36] Vlastimil Koubek was the architect for the East Building (L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, located at 480 L'Enfant Plaza SW), and for the Center Building (475 L'Enfant Plaza SW; now the United States Postal Service headquarters).[36] The team set out with a broad vision that was praised by both The Washington Post and Washington Star (which rarely agreed on anything), but funding problems forced revisions and a significant reduction in scale.[37]

In 1955 Pei's group took a step toward institutional independence from Webb and Knapp by establishing a new firm called I. M. Pei & Associates. (The name changed later to I. M. Pei & Partners.) They gained the freedom to work with other companies, but continued working primarily with Zeckendorf. The new firm distinguished itself through the use of detailed architectural models. They took on the Kips Bay residential area on the east side of Manhattan, where Pei set up Kips Bay Towers, two large long towers of apartments with recessed windows (to provide shade and privacy) in a neat grid, adorned with rows of trees. Pei involved himself in the construction process at Kips Bay, even inspecting the bags of concrete to check for consistency of color.[38]

The company continued its urban focus with the Society Hill project in central Philadelphia. Pei designed the Society Hill Towers, a three-building residential block injecting cubist design into the 18th-century milieu of the neighborhood. As with previous projects, abundant green spaces were central to Pei's vision, which also added traditional townhouses to aid the transition from classical to modern design.[39]

From 1958 to 1963 Pei and Ray Affleck developed a key downtown block of Montreal in a phased process that involved one of Pei's most admired structures in the Commonwealth, the cruciform tower known as the Royal Bank Plaza (Place Ville Marie). According to the Canadian Encyclopedia "its grand plaza and lower office buildings, designed by internationally famous US architect I. M. Pei, helped to set new standards for architecture in Canada in the 1960s ... The tower's smooth aluminum and glass surface and crisp unadorned geometric form demonstrate Pei's adherence to the mainstream of 20th-century modern design."[40]

Although these projects were satisfying, Pei wanted to establish an independent name for himself. In 1959 he was approached by MIT to design a building for its Earth science program. The Green Building continued the grid design of Kips Bay and Society Hill. The pedestrian walkway at the ground floor, however, was prone to sudden gusts of wind, which embarrassed Pei. "Here I was from MIT," he said, "and I didn't know about wind-tunnel effects."[41] At the same time, he designed the Luce Memorial Chapel in at Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan. The soaring structure, commissioned by the same organisation that had run his middle school in Shanghai, broke severely from the cubist grid patterns of his urban projects.[42][43]

The challenge of coordinating these projects took an artistic toll on Pei. He found himself responsible for acquiring new building contracts and supervising the plans for them. As a result, he felt disconnected from the actual creative work. "Design is something you have to put your hand to," he said. "While my people had the luxury of doing one job at a time, I had to keep track of the whole enterprise."[44] Pei's dissatisfaction reached its peak at a time when financial problems began plaguing Zeckendorf's firm. I. M. Pei and Associates officially broke from Webb and Knapp in 1960, which benefited Pei creatively but pained him personally. He had developed a close friendship with Zeckendorf, and both men were sad to part ways.[45]

A series of brown boxlike buildings stand in front of a mountain.
Pei said he wanted the Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research to look "as if it were carved out of the mountain".[46]

NCAR and Related Projects

Pei was able to return to hands-on design when he was approached in 1961 by Walter Orr Roberts to design the new Mesa Laboratory for the National Center for Atmospheric Research outside Boulder, Colorado. The project differed from Pei's earlier urban work; it would rest in an open area in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He drove with his wife around the region, visiting assorted buildings and surveying the natural environs. He was impressed by the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, but felt it was "detached from nature".[47]

The conceptualization stages were important for Pei, presenting a need and an opportunity to break from the Bauhaus tradition. He later recalled the long periods of time he spent in the area: "I recalled the places I had seen with my mother when I was a little boy—the mountaintop Buddhist retreats. There in the Colorado mountains, I tried to listen to the silence again—just as my mother had taught me. The investigation of the place became a kind of religious experience for me."[46] Pei also drew inspiration from the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples; he wanted the buildings to exist in harmony with their natural surroundings.[48] To this end, he called for a rock-treatment process that could color the buildings to match the nearby mountains. He also set the complex back on the mesa overlooking the city, and designed the approaching road to be long, winding, and indirect.[49]

Roberts disliked Pei's initial designs, referring to them as "just a bunch of towers".[50] Roberts intended his comments as typical of scientific experimentation, rather than artistic critique; still, Pei was frustrated. His second attempt, however, fit Roberts' vision perfectly: a spaced-out series of clustered buildings, joined by lower structures and complemented by two underground levels. The complex uses many elements of cubist design, and the walkways are arranged to increase the probability of casual encounters among colleagues.[51]

A grid of palm trees arranged in a tiled courtyard stands to the right of a dormitory building.
As with NCAR, Pei combined elements of cubism and natural harmony when designing the dormitories at New College of Florida in the mid-1960s.[52]

Once the laboratory was built, several problems with its construction became apparent. Leaks in the roof caused difficulties for researchers, and the shifting of clay soil beneath caused cracks in the buildings which were expensive to repair. Still, both architect and project manager were pleased with the final result. Pei refers to the NCAR complex as his "breakout building", and he remained a friend of Roberts until the scientist died in March 1990.[53]

The success of NCAR brought renewed attention to Pei's design acumen. He was recruited to work on a variety of projects, including the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, the Sundrome terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, and dormitories at New College of Florida.[54]

Kennedy Library

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, his family and friends discussed how to construct a library that would serve as a fitting memorial. A committee was formed to advise Kennedy's widow Jacqueline, who would make the final decision. The group deliberated for months and considered many famous architects.[55] Eventually, Kennedy chose Pei to design the library, based on two considerations. First, she appreciated the variety of ideas he had used for earlier projects. "He didn't seem to have just one way to solve a problem," she said. "He seemed to approach each commission thinking only of it and then develop a way to make something beautiful."[56] Ultimately, however, Kennedy made her choice based on her personal connection with Pei. Calling it "really an emotional decision", she explained: "He was so full of promise, like Jack; they were born in the same year. I decided it would be fun to take a great leap with him."[57]

The project was plagued with problems from the outset. The first was scope. President Kennedy had begun considering the structure of his library soon after taking office, and he wanted to include archives from his administration, a museum of personal items, and a political science institute. After the assassination, the list expanded to include a fitting memorial tribute to the slain president. The variety of necessary inclusions complicated the design process and caused significant delays.[58]

A white triangular tower rises beside a black glass building, with circular structures on either side.
Pei considers the John F. Kennedy Library "the most important commission" in his life.[59]

Pei's first proposed design included a large glass pyramid that would fill the interior with sunlight, meant to represent the optimism and hope that Kennedy's administration had symbolized for so many in the US. Mrs. Kennedy liked the design, but resistance began in Cambridge, the first proposed site for the building, as soon as the project was announced. Many community members worried that the library would become a tourist attraction, causing particular problems with traffic congestion. Others worried that the design would clash with the architectural feel of nearby Harvard Square. By the mid-70s, Pei tried proposing a new design, but the library's opponents resisted every effort.[60] These events pained Pei, who had sent all three of his sons to Harvard, and although he rarely discussed his frustration, it was evident to his wife. "I could tell how tired he was by the way he opened the door at the end of the day," she said. "His footsteps were dragging. It was very hard for I. M. to see that so many people didn't want the building."[61]

Finally the project moved to Columbia Point, near the University of Massachusetts Boston. The new site was less than ideal; it was located on an old landfill, and just over a large sewage pipe. Pei's architectural team added more fill to cover the pipe and developed an elaborate ventilation system to conquer the odor. A new design was unveiled, combining a large square glass-enclosed atrium with a triangular tower and a circular walkway.[62]

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on 20 October 1979. Critics generally liked the finished building, but the architect himself was unsatisfied. The years of conflict and compromise had changed the nature of the design, and Pei felt that the final result lacked its original passion. "I wanted to give something very special to the memory of President Kennedy," he said in 2000. "It could and should have been a great project."[59] Pei's work on the Kennedy project boosted his reputation as an architect of note.[63]

"Pei Plan" in Oklahoma City

The Pei Plan was an urban redevelopment initiative designed for downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the informal name for two related commissions by Pei – namely the Central Business District General Neighborhood Renewal Plan (design completed 1964) and the Central Business District Project I-A Development Plan (design completed 1966). It was formally adopted in 1965, and implemented in various public and private phases throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

The plan called for the demolition of hundreds of old downtown structures in favor of renewed parking, office building, and retail developments, in addition to public projects such as the Myriad Convention Center and the Myriad Botanical Gardens. It was the dominant template for downtown development in Oklahoma City from its inception through the 1970s. The plan generated mixed results and opinion, largely succeeding in re-developing office building and parking infrastructure but failing to attract its anticipated retail and residential development. Significant public resentment also developed as a result of the destruction of multiple historic structures. As a result, Oklahoma City's leadership avoided large-scale urban planning for downtown throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, until the passage of the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) initiative in 1993.[64][65]

Providence's Cathedral Square

Providence's Cathedral Square, modeled after the Greek Agora marketplace
Providence's Cathedral Square, modeled after the Greek Agora marketplace

Another city which turned to Pei for urban renewal during this time was Providence, Rhode Island.[66] In the late 1960s, Providence hired Pei to redesign Cathedral Square, a once-bustling civic center which had become neglected and empty, as part of an ambitious larger plan to redesign downtown.[66] Pei's new plaza, modeled after the Greek Agora marketplace, opened in 1972.[66] Unfortunately, the city ran out of money before Pei's vision could be fully realized.[66] Also, recent construction of a low-income housing complex and Interstate 95 had changed the neighborhood's character permanently.[66] In 1974, The Providence Evening Bulletin called Pei's new plaza a "conspicuous failure."[66] By 2016, media reports characterized the plaza as a neglected, little-visited "hidden gem".[66]

Augusta, GA

The distinctive modern pyramid shaped penthouse, designed by Pei, that was added to the top of the historic Lamar Building in 1976.
The distinctive modern pyramid shaped penthouse, designed by Pei, that was added to the top of the historic Lamar Building in 1976.

In 1974, Augusta, GA turned to Pei and his firm for downtown revitalization.[67] From the plan, the Chamber of Commence building and Bicentennial Park, were completed.[68] In 1976, Pei designed a distinctive modern penthouse, that was added to the roof of architect William Lee Stoddart's historic Lamar Building, designed in 1916. [69] The penthouse is a modern take on a pyramid, predating Pei's more famous Louvre Pyramid. It has been criticized by architectural critic James Howard Kunstler as an "Eyesore of the Month" with him comparing it to Darth Vader's helmet[70]. In 1980, he and his company designed the Augusta Civic Center, now known as the James Brown Arena.[71]

Dallas City Hall

A tall beige building with an angled front face, leaning out from the top, is supported by three columns and covered with rows of windows
Pei wanted his design for Dallas City Hall to "convey an image of the people".[72]

Kennedy's assassination led indirectly to another commission for Pei's firm. In 1964 the acting mayor, Erik Jonsson, began working to change the community's image. Dallas was known and disliked as the city where the president had been killed, but Jonsson began a program designed to initiate a community renewal. One of the goals was a new city hall, which could be a "symbol of the people".[73] Jonsson, a co-founder of Texas Instruments, learned about Pei from his associate Cecil Howard Green, who had recruited the architect for MIT's Earth Sciences building.[74]

Pei's approach to the new Dallas City Hall mirrored those of other projects; he surveyed the surrounding area and worked to make the building fit. In the case of Dallas, he spent days meeting with residents of the city and was impressed by their civic pride. He also found that the skyscrapers of the downtown business district dominated the skyline, and sought to create a building which could face the tall buildings and represent the importance of the public sector. He spoke of creating "a public-private dialogue with the commercial high-rises".[75]

Working with his associate Theodore Musho, Pei developed a design centered on a building with a top much wider than the bottom; the facade leans at an angle of 34 degrees. A plaza stretches out before the building, and a series of support columns holds it up. It was influenced by Le Corbusier's High Court building in Chandigarh, India; Pei sought to use the significant overhang to unify building and plaza. The project cost much more than initially expected, and took 11 years. Revenue was secured in part by including a subterranean parking garage. The interior of the city hall is large and spacious; windows in the ceiling above the eighth floor fill the main space with light.[76]

Two dark buildings rise into the early evening sky. The tower on the right is spotted with plywood on its side.
The disastrous failure of windows on the Hancock Tower required replacing them with plywood; some called it "the world's tallest wood building".[77]

The city of Dallas received the building well, and a local television news crew found unanimous approval of the new city hall when it officially opened to the public in 1978. Pei himself considered the project a success, even as he worried about the arrangement of its elements. He said: "It's perhaps stronger than I would have liked; it's got more strength than finesse."[78] He felt that his relative lack of experience left him without the necessary design tools to refine his vision, but the community liked the city hall enough to invite him back. Over the years he went on to design five additional buildings in the Dallas area.[79]

Hancock Tower, Boston

While Pei and Musho were coordinating the Dallas project, their associate Henry Cobb had taken the helm for a commission in Boston. John Hancock Insurance chairman Robert Slater hired I. M. Pei & Partners to design a building that could overshadow the Prudential Tower, erected by their rival.[80]

After the firm's first plan was discarded due to a need for more office space, Cobb developed a new plan around a towering parallelogram, slanted away from the Trinity Church and accented by a wedge cut into each narrow side. To minimize the visual impact, the building was covered in large reflective glass panels; Cobb said this would make the building a "background and foil" to the older structures around it.[81] When the Hancock Tower was finished in 1976, it was the tallest building in New England.[82]

Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

Serious issues of execution became evident in the tower almost immediately. Many glass panels fractured in a windstorm during construction in 1973. Some detached and fell to the ground, causing no injuries but sparking concern among Boston residents. In response, the entire tower was reglazed with smaller panels. This significantly increased the cost of the project. Hancock sued the glass manufacturers, Libbey-Owens-Ford, as well as I. M. Pei & Partners, for submitting plans that were "not good and workmanlike".[83] LOF countersued Hancock for defamation, accusing Pei's firm of poor use of their materials; I. M. Pei & Partners sued LOF in return. All three companies settled out of court in 1981.[84]

The project became an albatross for Pei's firm. Pei himself refused to discuss it for many years. The pace of new commissions slowed and the firm's architects began looking overseas for opportunities. Cobb worked in Australia and Pei took on jobs in Singapore, Iran, and Kuwait. Although it was a difficult time for everyone involved, Pei later reflected with patience on the experience. "Going through this trial toughened us," he said. "It helped to cement us as partners; we did not give up on each other."[85]

National Gallery East Building, Washington, DC

A large grey building rises above a stone plaza. Short square towers appear on either side of the building, and an array of irregular glass pyramids are in the middle of the plaza.
Time magazine headlined its review of Pei's design for the East Building "Masterpiece on the Mall".[86]

In the mid-1960s, directors of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., declared the need for a new building. Paul Mellon, a primary benefactor of the gallery and a member of its building committee, set to work with his assistant J. Carter Brown (who became gallery director in 1969) to find an architect. The new structure would be located to the east of the original building, and tasked with two functions: offer a large space for public appreciation of various popular collections; and house office space as well as archives for scholarship and research. They likened the scope of the new facility to the Library of Alexandria. After inspecting Pei's work at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa and the Johnson Museum at Cornell University, they offered him the commission.[87]

Pei took to the project with vigor, and set to work with two young architects he had recently recruited to the firm, William Pedersen and Yann Weymouth. Their first obstacle was the unusual shape of the building site, a trapezoid of land at the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues. Inspiration struck Pei in 1968, when he scrawled a rough diagram of two triangles on a scrap of paper. The larger building would be the public gallery; the smaller would house offices and archives. This triangular shape became a singular vision for the architect. As the date for groundbreaking approached, Pedersen suggested to his boss that a slightly different approach would make construction easier. Pei simply smiled and said: "No compromises."[88]

The growing popularity of art museums presented unique challenges to the architecture. Mellon and Pei both expected large crowds of people to visit the new building, and they planned accordingly. To this end, he designed a large lobby roofed with enormous skylights. Individual galleries are located along the periphery, allowing visitors to return after viewing each exhibit to the spacious main room. A large mobile sculpture by American artist Alexander Calder was later added to the lobby.[89] Pei hoped the lobby would be exciting to the public in the same way as the central room of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The modern museum, he said later, "must pay greater attention to its educational responsibility, especially to the young".[90]

A large open cement room contains several people on the ground far below a balcony. Several trees are planted in the concrete floor, and an array of clear windows let in sunshine from above.
Critic Richard Hennessy complained in Artforum about the East Building's "shocking fun-house atmosphere".[91]

Materials for the building's exterior were chosen with careful precision. To match the look and texture of the original gallery's marble walls, builders re-opened the quarry in Knoxville, Tennessee, from which the first batch of stone had been harvested. The project even found and hired Malcolm Rice, a quarry supervisor who had overseen the original 1941 gallery project. The marble was cut into three-inch-thick panels and arranged over the concrete foundation, with darker blocks at the bottom and lighter blocks on top.[92]

The East Building was honored on 30 May 1978, two days before its public unveiling, with a black-tie party attended by celebrities, politicians, benefactors, and artists. When the building opened, popular opinion was enthusiastic. Large crowds visited the new museum, and critics generally voiced their approval. Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in The New York Times that Pei's building was "a palatial statement of the creative accommodation of contemporary art and architecture".[91] The sharp angle of the smaller building has been a particular note of praise for the public; over the years it has become stained and worn from the hands of visitors.[93]

Some critics disliked the unusual design, however, and criticized the reliance on triangles throughout the building. Others took issue with the large main lobby, particularly its attempt to lure casual visitors. In his review for Artforum, critic Richard Hennessy described a "shocking fun-house atmosphere" and "aura of ancient Roman patronage".[91] One of the earliest and most vocal critics, however, came to appreciate the new gallery once he saw it in person. Allan Greenberg had scorned the design when it was first unveiled, but wrote later to J. Carter Brown: "I am forced to admit that you are right and I was wrong! The building is a masterpiece."[94]

Starting in 2005, the joints attaching the marble panels to the walls began to show signs of strain, creating a risk of panels falling off the building onto the public below. In 2008 officials decided that it would be necessary to remove and reinstall all the panels. The project is scheduled for completion in 2013.[95]

Fragrant Hills, China

After US President Richard Nixon made his famous 1972 visit to China, a wave of exchanges took place between the two countries. One of these was a delegation of the American Institute of Architects in 1974, which Pei joined. It was his first trip back to China since leaving in 1935. He was favorably received, returned the welcome with positive comments, and a series of lectures ensued. Pei noted in one lecture that since the 1950s Chinese architects had been content to imitate Western styles; he urged his audience in one lecture to search China's native traditions for inspiration.[96]

A white building with ornamented windows faces a lake ringed with rock structures. Trees appear around the structure.
Pei was surprised by public resistance to his traditional design of the hotel at Fragrant Hills in China. "Many people thought I was being reactionary," he said.[97]

In 1978, Pei was asked to initiate a project for his home country. After surveying a number of different locations, Pei fell in love with a valley that had once served as an imperial garden and hunting preserve known as Fragrant Hills. The site housed a decrepit hotel; Pei was invited to tear it down and build a new one. As usual, he approached the project by carefully considering the context and purpose. Likewise, he considered modernist styles inappropriate for the setting. Thus, he said, it was necessary to find "a third way".[98]

After visiting his ancestral home in Suzhou, Pei created a design based on some simple but nuanced techniques he admired in traditional residential Chinese buildings. Among these were abundant gardens, integration with nature, and consideration of the relationship between enclosure and opening. Pei's design included a large central atrium covered by glass panels that functioned much like the large central space in his East Building of the National Gallery. Openings of various shapes in walls invited guests to view the natural scenery beyond. Younger Chinese who had hoped the building would exhibit some of Cubist flavor for which Pei had become known were disappointed, but the new hotel found more favour with government officials and architects.[99]

The hotel, with 325 guest rooms and a four-story central atrium, was designed to fit perfectly into its natural habitat. The trees in the area were of special concern, and particular care was taken to cut down as few as possible. He worked with an expert from Suzhou to preserve and renovate a water maze from the original hotel, one of only five in the country. Pei was also meticulous about the arrangement of items in the garden behind the hotel; he even insisted on transporting 230 short tons (210 t) of rocks from a location in southwest China to suit the natural aesthetic. An associate of Pei's said later that he never saw the architect so involved in a project.[100]

During construction, a series of mistakes collided with the nation's lack of technology to strain relations between architects and builders. Whereas 200 or so workers might have been used for a similar building in the US, the Fragrant Hill project employed over 3,000 workers. This was mostly because the construction company lacked the sophisticated machines used in other parts of the world. The problems continued for months, until Pei had an uncharacteristically emotional moment during a meeting with Chinese officials. He later explained that his actions included "shouting and pounding the table" in frustration.[101] The design staff noticed a difference in the manner of work among the crew after the meeting. As the opening neared, however, Pei found the hotel still needed work. He began scrubbing floors with his wife and ordered his children to make beds and vacuum floors. The project's difficulties took an emotional and physical strain on the Pei family.[102]

A building of dark tinted glass stands over a city street. The corners of the building are smoothed at 45-degree angles.
Pei said of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center: "The complications exceeded even my expectations."[103]

The Fragrant Hill Hotel opened on 17 October 1982 but quickly fell into disrepair. A member of Pei's staff returned for a visit several years later and confirmed the dilapidated condition of the hotel. He and Pei attributed this to the country's general unfamiliarity with deluxe buildings.[104] The Chinese architectural community at the time gave the structure little attention, as their interest at the time centered on the work of American postmodernists such as Michael Graves.[105]

Javits Convention Center, New York

As the Fragrant Hill project neared completion, Pei began work on the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, for which his associate James Freed served as lead designer. Hoping to create a vibrant community institution in what was then a run-down neighborhood on Manhattan's west side, Freed developed a glass-coated structure with an intricate space frame of interconnected metal rods and spheres.[106]

The convention center was plagued from the start by budget problems and construction blunders. City regulations forbid a general contractor having final authority over the project, so architects and program manager Richard Kahan had to coordinate the wide array of builders, plumbers, electricians, and other workers. The forged steel globes to be used in the space frame came to the site with hairline cracks and other defects; 12,000 were rejected. These and other problems led to media comparisons with the disastrous Hancock Tower. One New York City official blamed Kahan for the difficulties, indicating that the building's architectural flourishes were responsible for delays and financial crises.[107] The Javits Center opened on 3 April 1986, to a generally positive reception. During the inauguration ceremonies, however, neither Freed nor Pei was recognized for their role in the project.

Le Grand Louvre, Paris

A classical building with ornamental design rises above a small crowd. Rounded archways line the front of the structure.
Pei was acutely aware, as he said, that "the history of Paris was embedded in the stones of the Louvre."[108]

When François Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981, he laid out an ambitious plan for a variety of construction projects. One of these was the renovation of the Louvre Museum. Mitterrand appointed a civil servant named Émile Biasini (fr) to oversee it. After visiting museums in Europe and the United States, including the US National Gallery, he asked Pei to join the team. The architect made three secretive trips to Paris, to determine the feasibility of the project; only one museum employee knew why he was there.[109] Pei finally agreed that a reconstruction project was not only possible, but necessary for the future of the museum. He thus became the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre.[110]

The heart of the new design included not only a renovation of the Cour Napoléon in the midst of the buildings, but also a transformation of the interiors. Pei proposed a central entrance, not unlike the lobby of the National Gallery East Building, which would link the three major buildings. Below would be a complex of additional floors for research, storage, and maintenance purposes. At the center of the courtyard he designed a glass and steel pyramid, first proposed with the Kennedy Library, to serve as entrance and anteroom skylight. It was mirrored by another inverted pyramid underneath, to reflect sunlight into the room. These designs were partly an homage to the fastidious geometry of the famous French landscape architect André Le Nôtre (1613–1700).[111] Pei also found the pyramid shape best suited for stable transparency, and considered it "most compatible with the architecture of the Louvre, especially with the faceted planes of its roofs".[108]

Biasini and Mitterrand liked the plans, but the scope of the renovation displeased Louvre director André Chabaud. He resigned from his post, complaining that the project was "unfeasible" and posed "architectural risks".[112] The public also reacted harshly to the design, mostly because of the proposed pyramid.[113] One critic called it a "gigantic, ruinous gadget";[114] another charged Mitterrand with "despotism" for inflicting Paris with the "atrocity".[114] Pei estimated that 90 percent of Parisians opposed his design. "I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris," he said.[115] Some condemnations carried nationalistic overtones. One opponent wrote: "I am surprised that one would go looking for a Chinese architect in America to deal with the historic heart of the capital of France."[116]

A grey pyramid sits in the center of a courtyard, surrounded by ancient buildings.
Pei decided that a pyramid was "most compatible" with the other structures at the Louvre, complementing their roofs' faceted planes.[108]

Soon, however, Pei and his team won the support of several key cultural icons, including the conductor Pierre Boulez and Claude Pompidou, widow of former French President Georges Pompidou, after whom another controversial museum was named. In an attempt to soothe public ire, Pei took a suggestion from then-mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac and placed a full-sized cable model of the pyramid in the courtyard. During the four days of its exhibition, an estimated 60,000 people visited the site. Some critics eased their opposition after witnessing the proposed scale of the pyramid.[117]

To minimize the impact of the structure, Pei demanded a method of glass production that resulted in clear panes. The pyramid was constructed at the same time as the subterranean levels below, which caused difficulties during the building stages. As they worked, construction teams came upon an abandoned set of rooms containing 25,000 historical items; these were incorporated into the rest of the structure to add a new exhibition zone.[118] The new Louvre courtyard was opened to the public on 14 October 1988, and the Pyramid entrance was opened the following March. By this time, public opinion had softened on the new installation; a poll found a fifty-six percent approval rating for the pyramid, with twenty-three percent still opposed. The newspaper Le Figaro had vehemently criticized Pei's design, but later celebrated the tenth anniversary of its magazine supplement at the pyramid.[119] Prince Charles of Britain surveyed the new site with curiosity, and declared it "marvelous, very exciting".[120] A writer in Le Quotidien de Paris wrote: "The much-feared pyramid has become adorable."[120] The experience was exhausting for Pei, but also rewarding. "After the Louvre," he said later, "I thought no project would be too difficult."[121] The Louvre Pyramid has become Pei's most famous structure.[122]

Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas

The opening of the Louvre Pyramid coincided with four other projects on which Pei had been working, prompting architecture critic Paul Goldberger to declare 1989 "the year of Pei" in The New York Times.[123] It was also the year in which Pei's firm changed its name to Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, to reflect the increasing stature and prominence of his associates. At the age of seventy-two, Pei had begun thinking about retirement, but continued working long hours to see his designs come to light.[124]

A beige cube rises at an angle around a half-cone made of glass and steel. In front, a square archway overlooks a stone courtyard.
Although he usually designed entirely by hand, Pei used a computer to "confirm the spaces" for the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.[125]

One of the projects took Pei back to Dallas, Texas, to design the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. The success of city's performing artists, particularly the Dallas Symphony Orchestra then being led by conductor Eduardo Mata, led to interest by city leaders in creating a modern center for musical arts that could rival the best halls in Europe. The organizing committee contacted 45 architects, but at first Pei did not respond, thinking that his work on the Dallas City Hall had left a negative impression. One of his colleagues from that project, however, insisted that he meet with the committee. He did and, although it would be his first concert hall, the committee voted unanimously to offer him the commission. As one member put it: "We were convinced that we would get the world's greatest architect putting his best foot forward."[126]

The project presented a variety of specific challenges. Because its main purpose was the presentation of live music, the hall needed a design focused on acoustics first, then public access and exterior aesthetics. To this end, a professional sound technician was hired to design the interior. He proposed a shoebox auditorium, used in the acclaimed designs of top European symphony halls such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Vienna Musikverein. Pei drew inspiration for his adjustments from the designs of the German architect Johann Balthasar Neumann, especially the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He also sought to incorporate some of the panache of the Paris Opéra designed by Charles Garnier.[127]

Pei's design placed the rigid shoebox at an angle to the surrounding street grid, connected at the north end to a long rectangular office building, and cut through the middle with an assortment of circles and cones. The design attempted to reproduce with modern features the acoustic and visual functions of traditional elements like filigree. The project was risky: its goals were ambitious and any unforeseen acoustic flaws would be virtually impossible to remedy after the hall's completion. Pei admitted that he did not completely know how everything would come together. "I can imagine only 60 percent of the space in this building," he said during the early stages. "The rest will be as surprising to me as to everyone else."[128] As the project developed, costs rose steadily and some sponsors considered withdrawing their support. Billionaire tycoon Ross Perot made a donation of US$10 million, on the condition that it be named in honor of Morton H. Meyerson, the longtime patron of the arts in Dallas.[129]

The building opened and immediately garnered widespread praise, especially for its acoustics. After attending a week of performances in the hall, a music critic for The New York Times wrote an enthusiastic account of the experience and congratulated the architects. One of Pei's associates told him during a party before the opening that the symphony hall was "a very mature building"; he smiled and replied: "Ah, but did I have to wait this long?"[130]

Bank of China, Hong Kong

A tall tower coated with reflective glass and steel X patterns rises over trees and smaller buildings.
Pei felt that his design for the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong needed to reflect "the aspirations of the Chinese people".[131]

A new offer had arrived for Pei from the Chinese government in 1982. With an eye toward the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British in 1997, authorities in China sought Pei's aid on a new tower for the local branch of the Bank of China. The Chinese government was preparing for a new wave of engagement with the outside world and sought a tower to represent modernity and economic strength. Given the elder Pei's history with the bank before the Communist takeover, government officials visited the 89-year-old man in New York to gain approval for his son's involvement. Pei then spoke with his father at length about the proposal. Although the architect remained pained by his experience with Fragrant Hill, he agreed to accept the commission.[132]

The proposed site in Hong Kong's Central District was less than ideal; a tangle of highways lined it on three sides. The area had also been home to a headquarters for Japanese military police during World War II, and was notorious for prisoner torture. The small parcel of land made a tall tower necessary, and Pei had usually shied away from such projects; in Hong Kong especially, the skyscrapers lacked any real architectural character. Lacking inspiration and unsure of how to approach the building, Pei took a weekend vacation to the family home in Katonah, New York. There he found himself experimenting with a bundle of sticks until he happened upon a cascading sequence.[133]

The design that Pei developed for the Bank of China Tower was not only unique in appearance, but also sound enough to pass the city's rigorous standards for wind-resistance. The tower was planned around a visible truss structure, which distributed stress to the four corners of the base. Using the reflective glass that had become something of a trademark for him, Pei organized the facade around a series of boxed X shapes. At the top, he designed the roofs at sloping angles to match the rising aesthetic of the building. Some influential advocates of feng shui in Hong Kong and China criticized the design, and Pei and government officials responded with token adjustments.[134]

As the tower neared completion, Pei was shocked to witness the government's massacre of unarmed civilians at the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. He wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times titled "China Won't Ever Be the Same", in which he said that the killings "tore the heart out of a generation that carries the hope for the future of the country".[135] The massacre deeply disturbed his entire family, and he wrote that "China is besmirched."[135]

1990–present: museum projects

A grey tiled building rises over a lake, with a cylinder set on a narrow pole, and a sloping glass wall on one end.
One staff member sympathized with Pei's frustrations with the lack of organization at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, admitting that he was "operating in a vacuum".[136]

As the 1990s began, Pei transitioned into a role of decreased involvement with his firm. The staff had begun to shrink, and Pei wanted to dedicate himself to smaller projects allowing for more creativity. Before he made this change, however, he set to work on his last major project as active partner: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Considering his work on such bastions of high culture as the Louvre and US National Gallery, some critics were surprised by his association with what many considered a tribute to low culture. The sponsors of the hall, however, sought Pei for specifically this reason; they wanted the building to have an aura of respectability from the beginning. As in the past, Pei accepted the commission in part because of the unique challenge it presented.[137]

Using a glass wall for the entrance, similar in appearance to his Louvre pyramid, Pei coated the exterior of the main building in white metal, and placed a large cylinder on a narrow perch to serve as a performance space. The combination of off-centered wraparounds and angled walls was, Pei said, designed to provide "a sense of tumultuous youthful energy, rebelling, flailing about".[138]

The building opened in 1995, and was received with moderate praise. The New York Times called it "a fine building", but Pei was among those who felt disappointed with the results. The museum's early beginnings in New York combined with an unclear mission created a fuzzy understanding among project leaders for precisely what was needed.[136] Although the city of Cleveland benefited greatly from the new tourist attraction, Pei was unhappy with it.[136]

At the same time, Pei designed a new museum for Luxembourg, the Musée d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, commonly known as the Mudam. Drawing from the original shape of the Fort Thüngen walls where the museum was located, Pei planned to remove a portion of the original foundation. Public resistance to the historical loss forced a revision of his plan, however, and the project was nearly abandoned. The size of the building was halved, and it was set back from the original wall segments to preserve the foundation. Pei was disappointed with the alterations, but remained involved in the building process even during construction.[139]

In 1995, Pei was hired to design an extension to the Deutsches Historisches Museum, or German Historical Museum in Berlin. Returning to the challenge of the East Building of the US National Gallery, Pei worked to combine a modernist approach with a classical main structure. He described the glass cylinder addition as a "beacon",[140] and topped it with a glass roof to allow plentiful sunlight inside. Pei had difficulty working with German government officials on the project; their utilitarian approach clashed with his passion for aesthetics. "They thought I was nothing but trouble", he said.[141]

Pei also worked at this time on two projects for a new Japanese religious movement called Shinji Shumeikai. He was approached by the movement's spiritual leader, Kaishu Koyama, who impressed the architect with her sincerity and willingness to give him significant artistic freedom. One of the buildings was a bell tower, designed to resemble the bachi used when playing traditional instruments like the shamisen. Pei was unfamiliar with the movement's beliefs, but explored them in order to represent something meaningful in the tower. As he said: "It was a search for the sort of expression that is not at all technical."[142]

A curving circular tunnel opens to reveal a building with a tall sloping roof and a circular window in the front door.
Pei's tunnel through a mountain leading to the Miho Museum was partly inspired by a story from fourth-century Chinese poet Tao Yuanming.[143]

The experience was rewarding for Pei, and he agreed immediately to work with the group again. The new project was the Miho Museum, to display Koyama's collection of tea ceremony artifacts. Pei visited the site in Shiga Prefecture, and during their conversations convinced Koyama to expand her collection. She conducted a global search and acquired more than 300 items showcasing the history of the Silk Road.[144]

One major challenge was the approach to the museum. The Japanese team proposed a winding road up the mountain, not unlike the approach to the NCAR building in Colorado. Instead, Pei ordered a hole cut through a nearby mountain, connected to a major road via a bridge suspended from ninety-six steel cables and supported by a post set into the mountain. The museum itself was built into the mountain, with 80 percent of the building underground.[145]

When designing the exterior, Pei borrowed from the tradition of Japanese temples, particularly those found in nearby Kyoto. He created a concise spaceframe wrapped into French limestone and covered with a glass roof. Pei also oversaw specific decorative details, including a bench in the entrance lobby, carved from a 350-year-old keyaki tree. Because of Koyama's considerable wealth, money was rarely considered an obstacle; estimates at the time of completion put the cost of the project at US$350 million.[146]

During the first decade of the 2000s, Pei designed a variety of buildings, including the Suzhou Museum near his childhood home.[147] He also designed the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar at the request of the Al-Thani Family. Although it was originally planned for the corniche road along Doha Bay, Pei convinced project coordinators to build a new island to provide the needed space. He then spent six months touring the region and surveying mosques in Spain, Syria, and Tunisia. He was especially impressed with the elegant simplicity of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo.

Once again, Pei sought to combine new design elements with the classical aesthetic most appropriate for the location of the building. The rectangular boxes rotate evenly to create a subtle movement, with small arched windows at regular intervals into the limestone exterior. The museum's coordinators were pleased with the project; its official website describes its "true splendour unveiled in the sunlight", and speaks of "the shades of colour and the interplay of shadows paying tribute to the essence of Islamic architecture".[148]

The Macao Science Center in Macau, designed by Pei Partnership Architects in association with I. M. Pei.
The Macao Science Center in Macau, designed by Pei Partnership Architects in association with I. M. Pei.

The Macao Science Center in Macau was designed by Pei Partnership Architects in association with I. M. Pei. The project to build the science center was conceived in 2001 and construction started in 2006.[149] The center was completed in 2009 and opened by the Chinese President Hu Jintao.[150] The main part of the building is a distinctive conical shape with a spiral walkway and large atrium inside, similar to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Galleries lead off the walkway, mainly consisting of interactive exhibits aimed at science education. The building is in a prominent position by the sea and is now a landmark of Macau.[150]

Style and method

Pei's style is described as thoroughly modernist, with significant cubist themes.[151] He is known for combining traditional architectural elements with progressive designs based on simple geometric patterns. As one critic writes: "Pei has been aptly described as combining a classical sense of form with a contemporary mastery of method."[152] In 2000, biographer Carter Wiseman called Pei "the most distinguished member of his Late-Modernist generation still in practice".[153] At the same time, Pei himself rejects simple dichotomies of architectural trends. He once said: "The talk about modernism versus post-modernism is unimportant. It's a side issue. An individual building, the style in which it is going to be designed and built, is not that important. The important thing, really, is the community. How does it affect life?"[154]

Pei's work is celebrated throughout the world of architecture. His colleague John Portman once told him: "Just once, I'd like to do something like the East Building."[155] But this originality does not always bring large financial reward; as Pei replied to the successful architect: "Just once, I'd like to make the kind of money you do."[155] His concepts, moreover, are too individualized and dependent on context to give rise to a particular school of design. Pei refers to his own "analytical approach" when explaining the lack of a "Pei School". "For me," he said, "the important distinction is between a stylistic approach to the design; and an analytical approach giving the process of due consideration to time, place, and purpose ... My analytical approach requires a full understanding of the three essential elements ... to arrive at an ideal balance among them."[156]

Awards and honors

In the words of his biographer, Pei has won "every award of any consequence in his art",[153] including the Arnold Brunner Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1963), the Gold Medal for Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1979), the AIA Gold Medal (1979), the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture from the Japan Art Association (1989), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the 1998 Edward MacDowell Medal in the Arts,[157] and the 2010 Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1983 he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, sometimes called the Nobel Prize of architecture. In its citation, the jury said: "Ieoh Ming Pei has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms ... His versatility and skill in the use of materials approach the level of poetry."[158] The prize was accompanied by a US$100,000 award, which Pei used to create a scholarship for Chinese students to study architecture in the US, on the condition that they return to China to work.[159] In being awarded the 2003 Henry C. Turner Prize by the National Building Museum, museum board chair Carolyn Brody praised his impact on construction innovation: "His magnificent designs have challenged engineers to devise innovative structural solutions, and his exacting expectations for construction quality have encouraged contractors to achieve high standards."[160] In December 1992, Pei was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush.[161]

Personal life

Pei's wife of over seventy years, Eileen Loo, predeceased him on 20 June 2014.[162] They had three sons, T'ing Chung (1946–2003),[163] Chien Chung (b. 1946) and Li Chung (b. 1949), and a daughter, Liane (b. 1960). T'ing Chung was an urban planner and alumnus of his father's alma mater MIT and Harvard. Chieng Chung and Li Chung, who are both Harvard Graduate School of Design alumni, founded and run Pei Partnership Architects. Liane is a lawyer.[164] He celebrated his 100th birthday on 26 April 2017.[165]

See also



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  20. ^ Boehm, p. 40.
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  136. ^ a b c Quoted in Wiseman, p. 307.
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  138. ^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 306.
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  140. ^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 315.
  141. ^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 316.
  142. ^ Quoted in Wiseman, p. 300.
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  154. ^ Quoted in Diamonstein, p. 145.
  155. ^ a b Quoted in Wiseman, p. 215.
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  • Diamonstein, Barbaralee. American Architecture Now. New York: Rizzoli, 1980. ISBN 0-8478-0329-5.
  • Heyer, Paul. Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993. ISBN 0-442-01751-0.
  • Boehm, Gero von. Conversations with I. M. Pei: Light is the Key. Munich: Prestel, 2000. ISBN 3-7913-2176-5.
  • Wiseman, Carter. I. M. Pei: A Profile in American Architecture. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2001. ISBN 0-8109-3477-9.
  • Lenci, Ruggero. I. M. Pei: teoremi spaziali. Turin, Testo & Immagine, 2004. ISBN 88-8382-143-2.
  • Williams, Paul Kelsey. Southwest Washington, D.C. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2005.
  • Moeller, Gerard M. and Weeks, Christopher. AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

External links

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