I.M. Pei, designer of the Louvre’s pyramid, dead at 102

I.M. Pei, who was revered as one of the last great modernist architects, has died, Pei Cobb Freed <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> <><><><><><><><>& Partners confirmed. He was 102 years old./ppAlthough he worked mostly in the United States, Pei will always be remembered for a European project: his redevelopment of the Louvre Museum in Paris in the 1980s./ppHe gave us the glass and metal pyramid in the main courtyard, along with three smaller pyramids and a vast subterranean addition to the museum entrance./ppPei was the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre in its long history, and initially his designs were fiercely opposed. But in the end, the French — and everyone else — were won over./ppAt its opening in 1989, the New York Times declared the pyramid “a technological tour de force: it is exquisitely detailed, light and nearly transparent.”/pp”The pyramid does not so much alter the Louvre as hover gently beside it, coexisting as if it came from another dimension,” wrote architecture critic Paul Goldberger./ppAs a young man, Pei counted himself grateful to have learned from some of the great modernists: Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier. (He favored owlish, round-framed glasses much like Le Corbusier’s.)/ppWinning the fifth Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1983, he was cited as giving the 20th century “some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms … His versatility and skill in the use of materials approach the level of poetry.”/ppA storied career/ppIeoh Ming Pei was born in China in 1917 into an affluent family. His father was a banker. His artistic mother — a calligrapher and flautist — had the greater influence on him./ppDespite not speaking English, Pei chose higher education in the United States and took a boat from China to San Francisco in 1935./ppAfter studying architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Pei set up his own architectural practice in New York in 1955./ppWinning the commission to design the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Museum in 1964 established him as a name. Awarded just a year after Kennedy’s assassination, this was the most resonant and coveted of commissions./ppJackie Kennedy made an emotional, personal choice in picking him over the likes of Louis Kahn and Mies van der Rohe./ppHis East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1978 altered people’s perceptions of a museum. The site was an odd trapezoid shape. Pei’s solution was to cut it in two. The resulting building was dramatic, light and elegant — one of the first crowd-pleasing cathedrals of modern art./pp”Some people say I’m obsessed with geometry,” Pei said in a 2009 documentary. “Maybe I am, but that’s what I believe: I think architecture is … geometry in solid forms.”/ppHis subsequent major commissions included the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas (1989), the a href=”https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/100-years-of-i-m-pei-bank-of-china/index.html” target=”_blank”Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong/a (1990) and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar (2008) ./ppIn person, I.M. Pei was dapper, good-humored, charming and unusually modest. His working process was evolutionary, but innovation was never a conscious goal./pp”Stylistic originality is not my purpose,” he said. “I want to find the originality in the time, the place and the problem.”/p