If you follow along with our blog, then you’re likely familiar with our Architect Spotlight series that showcases our favorite architects and the homes and buildings that inspire us. This month, we’re diving deep into the work of I.M. Pei, a Chinese-born American architect whose modern, abstract work is some of the most recognizable in the world.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with I.M. Pei, you’re likely familiar with one of his most famous structures: the glass pyramid structure at the entrance to the Louvre in Paris. His style uses geometric shapes and traditional Chinese architecture influences to create a look that’s nearly instantly recognizable.
Pei was born in 1917 in Guangzhou, China, but later moved between Hong Kong and Shanghai. Pei move to the United States in 1935 to attend architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania, though he quickly transferred to MIT. Pei befriended Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer after entering the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which led to him being recruited to work for William Zeckendorf, a real estate magnate in New York City.
In 1955, Pei established his own firm, I. M. Pei & Associates, which eventually became known as Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. The firm created the National Center for Atmospheric Research in 1961, which was his first building to gain major recognition. Pei is also known for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and The Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong.
Pei’s work is modernist in style with cubist themes throughout, and while many tried to categorize him as a Modernist, he rejected all architectural trends, saying, “An individual building, the style in which it is going to be designed and built, is not that important. The important thing, really, is the community. How does it affect life?"
Today, I.M. Pei is 101 years old and still kickin’ — a feat almost as impressive as the rest of his incredible career.