Read A key figure in twentieth century architecture with his famous studio and the “greatest interpreter of the International style” Ieoh Ming Pei. Internationally celebrated for such iconic designs as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, I. M. Pei founded the firm in Ieoh Ming Pei’s architecture can be characterized by its faith in modernism, humanized by its subtlety, lyricism, and beauty. Pei was born in Canton China in .

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Peiis a Chinese American architect. Born in Guangzhou and raised in Hong Kong and ShanghaiPei drew inspiration at an early age from the gardens at Soochow. Inhe 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 architectureand spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier.

InPei was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zeckendorffor whom he worked for seven years before establishing his own independent design firm I. Pei retired from full-time practice in 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 inand completed in His new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the John F.

Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He later returned to the world of the arts by designing the Morton H. Inhe won the Pritzker Prizesometimes called the Nobel Prize of architecture. Pei’s ancestry traces back to the Ming Dynastywhen his family moved from Anhui province to Suzhou.

Finding wealth in the sale of medicinal herbs, the family stressed the importance of helping the less fortunate. 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 and not his brothers or sisters to join her on meditation retreats. Their interactions were respectful but distant. 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”.

At the age of ten, Pei moved with his family to Shanghai after his father was promoted. 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. Shanghai’s many international elements gave it the name “Paris of the East”.

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 Gardenbuilt 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.

Soon after the move to Shanghai, Pei’s mother developed cancer.

As a pain reliever, she was prescribed opiumand assigned the task of preparing her pipe to Pei. She died shortly after his thirteenth birthday, and he was profoundly upset.

I.M. Pei | American architect |

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. While studying in Shanghai, he mimg 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. Pei was fascinated by the representations of college life in the films of Bing Crosbywhich differed tremendously from the academic atmosphere in China. Minb could get a feeling for it in Bing Crosby’s movies. College life in America seemed very exciting min me. It’s not real, we ieih that. Ieohh, at that time it was very attractive to me.

I decided that was the country for me. In 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 stylerooted in the classical traditions of Greece and Rome.

Pei was more intrigued by modern architectureand also felt intimidated by the high level of drafting proficiency ieob 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. 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.

I. M. Pei Biography

Pei was inspired by the innovative designs of the new International stylecharacterized by simplified form and the use of glass and steel materials.

After waiting for two hours, however, he left ifoh meeting Wright. They began dating and they married in the spring of He was excited by the lively atmosphere, and joined the GSD in December Pei’s background in architecture was seen as a considerable asset; one member of the committee told him: 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. In 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 minf ofand received a position as assistant professor of design. At the center were members of the Bauhausa European architectural movement that had advanced the cause of modernist design.

I. M. Pei | Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

The Nazi regime had condemned the Bauhaus school, and its leaders left Germany. Their iconoclastic focus oei modern architecture appealed to Pei, and he worked closely with both men. He wanted to create a mood of Chinese authenticity in the architecture without using traditional materials or styles.

It was very well received; Gropius, in fact, called it “the best thing done in [my] master class”. In the spring of 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; mjng new boss was known for his loud speech and gruff demeanor. Nevertheless, they became good friends and Pei pwi the experience personally enriching.

Zeckendorf was well connected politically, and Pei enjoyed learning about the social world of New York’s city planners. His first project for Webb and Knapp was an apartment building with funding from the Housing Act of Pei’s design was based on a circular tower with mong rings.


The areas closest to the supporting pillar handled utilities and circulation; the apartments themselves were located toward the idoh 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. Pei finally saw mingg architecture come to life in[30] when he designed a two-story corporate building for Gulf Oil in Atlanta, Georgia.

The building was demolished in February although the front facade will be retained as ieob of an apartment development. His use of marble for the exterior curtain wall brought praise from the journal Architectural Forum.

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 pie 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. In 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 lei the rest is adorned with an exhibition hall and fountain-dotted plazas.

These projects helped Pei conceptualize architecture as part of the ppei urban geography. Pei and his team also designed a united urban area for Washington, D. In Pei’s group took a step toward institutional independence from Webb and Knapp by establishing a new firm called I. The name changed later to I. They gained the freedom to work with other companies, but continued working primarily with Zeckendorf.

The new firm distinguished pfi 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 Towerstwo 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. The company continued its urban focus with the Society Hill project in central Philadelphia. Pei designed the Society Hill Towersa three-building residential block injecting cubist design into the 18th-century milieu of the neighborhood. As with previous projects, abundant green spaces mong central to Pei’s vision, which also added traditional townhouses to aid the transition from classical to modern design.

From to 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.

Pei, helped to set new standards for architecture in Canada in the s 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. Although these projects were satisfying, Pei wanted to establish an independent name for himself.

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