Birthday: April 26, 1917
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Ieoh Ming Pei
Born in: Suzhou, China
Famous as: Master of Modern Architecture
University Of Pennsylvania
Spouse/Ex-: Eileen Loo
father: Tsuyee Pei
mother: Lien Kwun
children: Chien Chung Pei, Li Chung Pei, Liane Pei
Died on: May 16, 2019
place of death: Manhattan, New York City
Founder/Co-Founder: I.M. Pei and Associates, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
education: St. Paul's College, Hong Kong, 1940 - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, 1946 - Harvard Graduate School of Design
I.M. Pei was a Chinese-born American architect who is popularly known as the master of modern architecture. Providing modernist, cubist designs to architecture along with glass work in the form of geometric shapes, he designed some of the world’s most unique buildings. His dedication to his work brought him worldwide acclaim and according to his biographer, he won “every award of any consequence in his art.” He headed projects as large as the JFK Library, Dallas City Hall, the Louvre, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His fascinating creations have been showcased around the world in some of the most famous cities including Washington, D.C., Hong Kong, Paris, Dallas, and New York. He was a unique architect in the sense that he has made creations as beautiful and extravagant as the Louvre, and at the same time also headed projects involving development of low-income housing. In addition to his majorly successful career, he was also a dedicated family man. This prolific architect continued to remain dedicated to his work till his last days.
Childhood & Early Life
I. M. Pei was born on April 26, 1917 in Suzhou, China, to Tsuyee Pei and Lien Kwun. His father was a prmonent banker. Pei lost his mother to cancer, when he was thirteen.
He came to the United States at the young age of 17. His reason for immigrating was to receive an American education focusing on Architecture.
He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from MIT in 1940. Originally, he began his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, but he believed their curriculum was lacking in his area of interest, structural engineering.
In 1946, he was awarded his Masters in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Once he got his degree, he was appointed assistant professor.
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While still enrolled in Harvard, his education was interrupted in 1943 when he served on the National Defense Research Committee. During WWII, this committee was set to conduct research on the devices of warfare.
From 1945 to 1948, he got his architectural career started by teaching as an assistant professor at Harvard. Here, he befriended two students with whom he was able to design several low-cost houses, winning recognition in the Arts and Architecture magazine.
In 1948, he accepted the prestigious position of Director of Architecture at Webb & Knapp, a real estate company. While with the company, he was able to produce his first successful project, when he designed a two-story corporate building for Gulf Oil in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1949.
During his stint with Webb & Knapp, he designed Mile High Center in Colorado and a united urban area for Washington, D.C., namely, L'Enfant Plaza.
In 1955, he decided to break free and established his own architectural firm called I.M. Pei & Associates.
His own firm designed some prominent building across the globe from Taiwan to Colorado. These include: the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library in Boston, the Grand Louvre pyramid in Paris, and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong which stands over 72 stories high.
He retired from his firm in 1990, but continued to design buildings till his last days.
After the passing of President John F. Kennedy, he worked closely with Jacqueline Kennedy on building the nine-story glass and concrete presidential library. It was completed in 1979 and launched his global career forward. Pei himself feels this building was “the most important commission” in his life.
The most iconic and well known representation of Pei’s work is the famous entrance to Paris’s Louvre museum. The large glass pyramid was completed in 1989 as a modern view of history and architecture.
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Awards & Achievements
In 1979, he was awarded the Gold Medal for Architecture of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The same year he won the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects
In 1983, he was awarded the prestigious 'Pritzker Prize', considered as Nobel Prize of architecture.
On July 4, 1986, President Ronald Reagan bestowed the Medal of Liberty upon Pei.
In 1993, President George H.W. Bush awarded him with the Medal Freedom.
In 2003, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1942, I.M. Pei married fellow architect Eileen Loo and together they went on to have children Chien Chung Pei, Li Chung Pei, T’ing Chung, and Liane Pei. His wife died in June 2014.
During the mid 1970s, plates of glass fell out of his John Hancock Tower in Boston, and his reputation was questioned. He took the criticism in stride and went on to develop even more extensive glass buildings such as his Allied Bank Tower in Dallas, the Louvre Museum, and the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Ohio.
According to the Pritzker Architecture committee, his strengths lie in his ability to “draw together disparate people and disciplines to create a harmonious environment.”
I.M. Pei died on 16 May 2019, at Manhattan, New York City, at the age of 102.
He used his Pritzker Prize money to create and fund a scholarship for Chinese students to enable them to come to the United States to study architecture.