I M Pei, the architect behind iconic buildings globally, including the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris (1989), died aged 102 at his home in Manhattan, NY yesterday – 16 May. His was a lifetime of designing structures renowned for their emphasis on precision geometry, plain surfaces and natural light, another example of which is the statuesque 1000 foot high Bank of China Building in Hong Kong also completed in 1989.
He carried on working well into old age, creating one of his most famous masterpieces – the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar – in his ‘80s.
Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou in 1917, and moved to the US at the age of 18 to study at Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard. He worked as a research scientist for the US government during World War Two, and subsequently worked as an architect, founding his own firm in 1955.
One of the 20th Century’s most prolific architects, he designed municipal buildings, hotels, schools and other structures across North America, Asia and Europe.
His style was described as modernist with cubist themes, and was influenced by his love of Islamic architecture; his favoured building materials were glass and steel, with combinations of concrete. Pei sparked controversy for his pyramid at the Louvre Museum but the glass structure, completed in 1989, is now one of Paris’ most famous landmarks.
Pei once said: ‘I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity.’
He won a variety awards and prizes for his buildings, including the AIA Gold Medal, the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture. And in 1983 Pei was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize – the jury noting that he ‘has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms”.
He used his $100 000 prize money to start a scholarship fund for Chinese students to study architecture in America.