Louvre and John F Kennedy Library architect IM Pei dies at 102

IM Pei Louvre Palace Napoleon Courtyard, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

IM Pei, the Chinese-American architect best known for his designs for the Louvre and the Washington National Gallery, has died at the age of 102.

Born in Canton but brought up mainly in Shanghai, he chose to study in the US, arriving in 1935, aged 17, and found himself stranded by the Second World War. He studied at Boston under Walter Gropius and Marcel Bruer, and developed a style of architecture influenced both by the modern and the traditional.

IM Pei JFK Library, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Despite conflicts over the Kennedy Library and a tower in Boston, Ieoh Ming Pei’s fame as an architect reached its heights with his design for the glass pyramid at the Louvre, Paris in the 1980s. He was also responsible for the design of a series of cultural monuments all around the world, culminating in the fortress-like Museum of Islamic Art at Doha. Other works included the East Building added to Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art (1968-78).

IM Pei Fragrant Hill Hotel, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

His addition to the Louvre, a great glass pyramid at the centre of the court and its three smaller sisters, carefully referred to the 17th-century landscape architect André le Nôtre when the idea was presented to French critics, and in the 1980s he had the distinction of being invited to work in China on a traditional hotel, the closest he ever came to revivalism.

IM Pei Bank of China, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

IM Pei was regarded as neither a teacher nor a theorist, bringing new thoughts to each assignment, but he had a reputation for being able to reconcile the skills of his art with the requirements of his clients and the demands of each project. He won every award of any consequence in his art, including the Arnold Brunner Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1963), the Gold Medal for Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1979), the AIA Gold Medal (1979), the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture from the Japan Art Association (1989), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the 1998 Edward MacDowell Medal in the Arts, and the 2010 Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

IM Pei – image courtesy Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

IM Pei died on 16th May 2019, and is survived by two sons and a daughter.

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