Ieoh Ming Pei (26 April 1917 – 16 May 2019) was a Chinese American architect. Born in Guangzhou and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age from the gardens at Suzhou. In 1935, he moved to the United States and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school, but quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture, and spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and became a friend of the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zeckendorf, for whom he worked for seven years before establishing his own independent design firm I. M. Pei & Associates in 1955, which became I. M. Pei & Partners in 1966 and later in 1989 became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Pei retired from full-time practice in 1990. Since then, he has taken on work as an architectural consultant primarily from his sons' architectural firm Pei Partnership Architects.
He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from MIT in 1940. Upon graduation he was awarded the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, the MIT Traveling Fellowship, and the AIA Gold Medal. In 1942, Pei enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he studied under Walter Gropius. Six months later, he volunteered his services to the National Defense Research Committee in Princeton. Pei returned to Harvard in 1944 and completed his M.Arch in 1946, simultaneously teaching on the faculty as an assistant professor (1945–48). Awarded the Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship by Harvard in 1951, he traveled extensively in England, France, Italy and Greece. I. M. Pei became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1954.
Mr. Pei's personal architectural style blossomed with his design for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado (1961–67). He subsequently gained broad national attention with the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington (1968–78) and the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library in Boston (1965-79), two of some thirty institutional projects executed by Mr. Pei. Others include churches, hospitals, and municipal buildings, as well as schools, libraries, and over a dozen museums. In 1974 he returned to China for the first time to design a hotel at Fragrant Hills, and designed a skyscraper in Hong Kong for the Bank of China fifteen years later. In Europe he is probably most well known for his design of the Pyramid of the Grand Louvre in Paris.
Pei's first major recognition came with the Mesa Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado (designed in 1961, and completed in 1967). His new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He went on to design Dallas City Hall and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. He returned to China for the first time in 1975 to design a hotel at Fragrant Hills, and designed Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, a skyscraper in Hong Kong for the Bank of China fifteen years later. In the early 1980s, Pei was the focus of controversy when he designed a glass-and-steel pyramid for the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He later returned to the world of the arts by designing the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Miho Museum in Japan, the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, abbreviated to Mudam, in Luxembourg.
Pei has won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of architecture, including the AIA Gold Medal in 1979, the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2003. In 1983, Mr. Pei was chosen the Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He used the $100,000 award to establish a scholarship fund for Chinese students to study architecture in the United States (with the strict proviso that they return to China to practice their profession). Among the many academic awards bestowed on Mr. Pei are honorary doctorates from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, New York University, Brown University, the University of Colorado, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the American University of Paris.
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