I.M. Pei, Louvre Pyramid Architect, Dies at Age 102

Carla Harmon
May 18, 2019

He said that when you ask visitors why they are at the Louvre, they generally give three answers: for the Mona Lisa, for the Venus de Milo and for the Pyramid.

He brought to his work the notion that good architecture served a higher civic goal. "At that time, there was no difference between an architect, a construction man, or an engineer".

"This building helped to shape attitudes to museum building throughout the United States in the 1970s and later", architect Dennis Sharp wrote in Twentieth Century Architecture: A Visual History (2006). His thesis projects at MIT and Harvard - a mobile media and recreation center for rural China and a modern art museum for Shanghai, respectively - signaled his intention to return to his native country.

Nevertheless, war and upheaval got in the way.

His death was confirmed today by a spokesman at his NY architecture firm.

Famously charming, with dapper style and a beaming smile, Pei easily straddled, and found clients in, the worlds of both culture and commerce.


The award-winning architect, whose other notable projects include the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, passed away overnight, his son Chien Chung Pei told the New York Times, adding that the family had just had a celebratory dinner to mark his father's 102nd birthday. Click through the gallery to see his life and work in pictures.

Some of his designs were met with much controversy, such as the 71-foot faceted glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris.

Pei's work over a century includes icons around the world, including the Louvre Pyramid and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He did so, often, by forging his own path.

In 1948, New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf hired Pei as his director of architecture. He also was commissioned to design the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, which opened in 2008.

"Whether it's the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong or the Louvre in Paris, his landmark buildings are inspiring examples for architects around the world", she said.


Pei returned to China for the first time in 1974 as part of a delegation of American architects.

"The diagonal cuts that generate the prism create a sequence of atrium spaces that flood the tower with natural light", says the website of Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, the firm from which Pei retired in 1990.

Concerned about the effect such a building would have on the capital's historic character, Pei refused.

The museum blends features of Suzhou's famed classical gardens and white stucco dwellings with a modern facade of steel and glass.

No challenge seemed to be too great for Pei, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

Pei was also responsible for designing the accompanying "pyramid ininversée" (inverted pyramid)-an inverse of the original pyramid that is located in the Carrousel du Louvre in front of the Louvre Museum.


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