Happy Birthday to I.M. Pei

John Hill
25. April 2017
Pei and his most famous project, the Louvre Pyramid (Background photo: Koji Horiuchi)

Pei was born in China in 2017 and moved to the United States in 1935. He received architecure degrees at MIT and Harvard GSD and started his eponymous firm (now Pei Cobb Freed and Partners) in 1955. Less than fifteen years later his firm won AIA's Architectural Firm Award, and in 1983 he won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which described his architecture as "characterized by its faith in modernism, humanized by its subtlety, lyricism, and beauty."

Notable projects are too numerous to list (a few are pictured at bottom), but one of them – the National Gallery of Art – is hosting a centennial celebration on his birthday at 3:30pm. Just as the Louvre Pyramid is receiving the Twenty-five Year Award this year, Pei's National Gallery of Art East Building was given the same accolade in 2004.

Another centennial celebration took place at his alma mater, Harvard GSD, on 30 March 2017 (video of the event is embedded below). Comments from partner Harry Cobb and others focused on "the formative years of I. M. Pei’s career as well as some of his special friendships, influences, and projects." According to the GSD, they are planning, together with M+ Museum in Hong Kong, a symposium on the work of I. M. Pei for the fall.

Words of praise directed toward Pei on his birthday can be found on the Pei Cobb Freed website, including a letter from AIA President Thomas Vonier and CEO Robert Ivy, which says in part:

Most lives are short compared to the art that comes from our hands. You have defied this familiar aphorism, and we who watch in admiration are the grateful beneficiaries of a genius that continues to inspire and enrich everything it touches.

National Gallery of Art East Building, Washington, DC, 1978 (Photo: Rob Young/Wikimedia Commons)
Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, 1990 (Photo: WiNG/Wikimedia Commons)
Miho Museum, Japan, 1997 (Photo: John Weiss/Flickr)
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar, 2008 (Photo: Shahin Olakara/Wikimedia Commons)

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