Although 97-year-old Chinese-born architect Ieoh Ming Pei (I.M. Pei) retired in 1990, he still consults, primarily from his sons’ architectural firm. He came to the United States at the age of 17 to study architecture and received degrees from MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Design before becoming a naturalized citizen of the US in 1954.
Pei frequently relies on abstract forms and materials such as stone, concrete, glass, and steel. He has said that he is more concerned with the function of his designs than the architectural theory, and called architecture a “pragmatic art” when he accepted the Pritzker Architecture Award in 1983.
“To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity,” he said.
He has also won the Gold Medal Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) was awarded the Henry C. Turner Prize by the National Building Museum, the Arnold Brunner Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture from the Japan Art Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Pei is a fellow of the AIA, and a corporate member of the RIBA.
Perhaps Pei’s most famous design is the glass and steel pyramid that sits as the entrance to the Musée du Louvre in Paris. The design was considered controversial because it was very futuristic compared to the classical architecture of the museum.
This was not the first time a glass pyramid was part of a building’s design. The initial proposal for the John F. Kennedy Library included this architectural element, but it was eventually scrapped—as were several other ideas. In the end the building combined a large square glass-enclosed atrium with a triangular tower and a circular walkway.
Pei used a similar design to the Louvre pyramid when he worked on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio. The entrance includes an angled glass and steel wall that looks very much like the Louvre pyramid from certain angles. The building is a mix of off-center features and angled walls, which represents youthful energy and rebelling, according to Pei.
“In designing this building, it was my intention to echo the energy of rock and roll,” Pei said.