The architect Ieoh Ming Pei, one of the most important of the 20th century, has died 102 years, as confirmed by his son, also architect Li Chung Pei, to the newspaper 'The New York Times'.
The master architect signed many daring projects, marrying modernity and tradition in a long professional life, but he will forever be the founder of the pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris, inaugurated thirty years ago. The American of Chinese origin, also designed buildings as bold as the Bank of China in Hong Kong, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha or the east wing of the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, where modernity is not at odds with classicism and purity of lines. It was winner of the Pritzker Prize in 1983, the Nobel of architecture.
Born on April 26, 1917 in the Chinese city of Canton, he grew up in a noble family native of Suzhou, 'the Venice of the East'. His father was a prominent banker. His mother, flutist and expert in calligraphy, procured an artistic education that included retreats in Buddhist monasteries. He died when Pei was 13 years old, but the maternal fingerprint was crucial. "I was born in China and there I received the essentials of my education," repeated Pei, who never forgot his roots and who arrived in 1935 in the United States to study at the legendary MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating in this elite factory of geniuses and Nobel prizes, it was student at Harvard University by Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and great theorist of the international style.
He adopted the American nationality in 1954, when the communist revolution ruined his family and his return to China was complicated. He was a professor at Harvard (1945-1948) and then directed the study of Webb & Knapp (1948-1955) before creating his own firm, I.M. Pei and associates. The Mile High Center in Denver (1956) was the first major commission in a long series, with milestones such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder (1967) and the John Hancock Tower in Boston (1973).
It was Jackie Kennedy, former American lady, who pushed his career when he commissioned the design of the J.F. Library in the mid-sixties. Kennedy in honor of her murdered husband. It opened in 1979 and made Pei's prestige grow worldwide, adding projects such as Dallas City Hall (1978), the Xiangshan Hotel in Beijing (1983) and the New York Convention and Exhibition Center to its list. (1985).
Rethink the Louvre
In 1978 Pei expanded the National Gallery of Art in Washington, characterized by a transparent triangular atrium. He was not well known in France when in 1983 the then president, the Socialist François Miterrand, dazzled by Pei's work in Washington, commissioned him to "rethink" the Louvre. His bold project around a huge pyramid of glass and steel 21 meters high unleashed violent passions for and against, was inaugurated in 1989.
Ming Pei, an icon of architecture
He devised an underground entrance to the museum crowned by the giant translucent pyramid. The controversy was as monumental as the project and a hell for the architect, surprised by violent reactions that touched xenophobia. Considered one of the main architectural achievements of the Miterrand era and a milestone of modernity, the Louvre has been a victim of its success, with more than eight million annual visitors. "It was the greatest challenge an architect can face," admitted Pei, who had never intervened in an enclave so loaded with history. "Just put your eyes on the building to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of the place," he acknowledged.
In 1982 he agreed to build the new headquarters of the Bank of China in Hong Kong, after consulting his father, director of the entity. It conceived a tower of 315 meters of height with facade of triangular facets that turned into one of the most iconic buildings of the British excolonia. Pei also left his imprint in Berlin, where he built in 2003 the audacious helical access of the Museum of German History. Author of the Rock Hall of Fame in Cleveland or the Science Center of Macau in China, his latest project is the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (Qatar), inaugurated in 2008 and inspired by the Ibn Tulun mosque in Cairo.
Of small anatomy and wearing his malicious smile behind his round glasses, Pei acquired world renown and accumulated the most prestigious international awards, such as the Japanese Imperial Award, the Gold Medals of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Royal Institute of British Architects , or the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civil decoration in the United States.
«Ieoh Ming Pei has offered to this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms. The meaning of his work goes far beyond them, since his concern has always been the environment in which his buildings rise, "said Carleton Smith, then secretary of the Pritzker Prize jury, in 1983, when announcing the award.
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