Abstract shapes and sharp, geometric designs have made Chinese-born architect Ieoh Ming Pei a star in the West. He turned 102 in April.
Pei died in his Manhattan apartment on May 16, 2019.
Pei, famous for, among other things, the design of the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. His handling of simple geometric shapes and playing with light shaped his work.
Sponsored by Walter Gropius, the exiled founder of the Bauhaus at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and Marcel Breuer, Pei is considered to be its most accomplished classical modernist supporter. Pei had already moved to the USA at the age of 17 for training, the Second World War prevented his return to China.
I. M. Pei was born into a wealthy family. His father was a senior executive at the Bank of China, and in 1927 he was transferred to the bank's headquarters in Shanghai. The mother, an artistically educated woman and practicing Buddhist closer to him than his father, died of cancer when he was 13.
Pei went to school in Shanghai at a boarding school run by American missionaries. North American standards were conveyed there, wearing Western school clothes, the preferred sports being basketball and tennis. Pei experienced a contrast with this environment during the summer holidays in Suzhou northwest of Shanghai with his grandfather, who introduced him to traditional Chinese values, with family sense and the teachings of Confucius.
Later Pei described the early experiences with both worlds as a win.
At that time, the first high-rise buildings were built in the East Asian business center in Shanghai, of which Pei was very impressed. He decided to study modern architecture, which was only possible overseas. In August 1935, Pei traveled to the United States and, after a brief stint in Philadelphia, enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.
In 1942, Pei married the Chinese born, Ai-Ling Loon (1920 – 2014), whom he had met four years earlier in Boston. They have three sons and one daughter. Pei never talked about his personal life, nor didoes he talk politics. He was described as an amiable, witty interlocutor who never loses calm even in critical situations. His secretary believed he only cursed once in her presence in the thirty years she worked for him.
Still, he was a figure of controversy; His designs often caused violent resistance at first, but then mostly contributed all the more to his fame. Time and again his special energy was emphasized, which enabled him to perform with a high level of energy even in old age.
One of his partners once said: "He's equipped with a different set of batteries than everyone else." Pei himself said of his motives: "In me I have a great desire to leave something behind. This has nothing to do with ego. I think you owe it to your own existence to leave something that remains."
The last masterpiece is the Museum of Islamic Art in the Emirate of Qatar.
Previously, it was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA, from where a disk jockey sent the term "rock and roll" into the world in the 1950s. The design of this building was meant to reflect the energy of rock and roll, the architect once said.
In between, the desire for experimentation would have almost ruined his company – the 240-meter-high John Hancock Tower in Boston, USA, huge discs fell out of the façade during every storm – be it like, the Bank of China in Hong Kong glitters like a crystal once again. This time Pei felt inspired by the bamboo, in Chinese culture which is seen as a positive symbol.