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Iconic Architect I.M. Pei turns 100: 5 of his Most Brilliant Works

The Louvre Pyramid and La Pyramide Inversée, Paris (1989 and 1993) Triangles and pyramidical forms have long been a theme in Pei’s work and this intervention in the courtyard of the Louvre museum is the ultimate culmination of this leitmotif. The steel and glass pavilion is constructed from 673 rhomboid and triangular glass panels, and covers 1000sq m at its base. La Pyramide Inversée, the inverted pyramid skylight, was later added to the Carrousel du Louvre, “as a fun piece,” said Pei. Of course, it was also to help bring the sun light in and point visitors to the entrance lobby from within the underground shopping mall. (pic from azuremagazine.com)
The Louvre Pyramid and La Pyramide Inversée, Paris (1989 and 1993): Triangles and pyramidical forms have long been a theme in Pei’s work and this intervention in the courtyard of the Louvre museum is the ultimate culmination of this leitmotif. The steel and glass pavilion is constructed from 673 rhomboid and triangular glass panels, and covers 1000sq m at its base. La Pyramide Inversée, the inverted pyramid skylight, was later added to the Carrousel du Louvre, “as a fun piece,” said Pei. Of course, it was also to help bring the sun light in and point visitors to the entrance lobby from within the underground shopping mall. (pic from azuremagazine.com)

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE MOST ICONIC ARCHITECT OF OUR TIME: I.M. PEI. Born in Guangzhou, China on April 26, 1917, Ieoh Ming Pei moved to the United States at the age of 17 to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and after a brief stint in the engineering department at MIT, Pei returned to architecture there and then at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He later began his career in New York where he still lives today.

“New York,” realized I.M. Pei, “is the most exciting city in the world, it pulsates with life.”

Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong (1990). Meant to evoke the structure of bamboo, this four-section, 70-storey tower cuts an imposing figure into the Hong Kong skyline. (pic from azuremagazine.com)
Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong (1990): Meant to evoke the structure of bamboo, this four-section, 70-storey tower cuts an imposing figure into the Hong Kong skyline. The building is 315.0m (1,033.5 ft) tall with two masts reaching 367.4 m (1,205.4 ft) and was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia from 1989 to 1992 as well as the first building outside the United States to break the 305m (1,000 ft) mark. It is now the fourth tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. (pic from azuremagazine.com)
Bank of China by night: The Bank of China won many awards for excellent architecture as well as environmental assessment. For one, it uses less steel than typical for a building its size. The 43rd floor offers a public viewing platform to carch the bird view of Hong Kong. (Pic from topchinatravel.com)
Bank of China by night: The Bank of China won many awards for excellent architecture as well as environmental assessment. For one, it uses less steel than typical for a building its size. The 43rd floor offers a public viewing platform to carch the bird view of Hong Kong. (Pic from topchinatravel.com)

 

He became world-famous for the many masterful structures he designed: The Bank of China Building that shaped Hong Kong’s skyline in 1989, the Miho Museum outside of Kyoto, which was built into a mountain, and the Four Seasons Hotel in New York which set standards from the day it opened.

Miho Museum, Koka, Japan (1997). The incredibly breathtaking Miho Museum is built into the forest of the Kyoto mountains, a stunning reward at the end of a journey that includes a sloping path, a tunnel, and a bridge. Much of the 17,400-sq m building is underground for a large collection of Asian and Western antiques. (pic from www.archdaily)
Miho Museum, Koka, Japan (1997): The incredibly breathtaking Miho Museum is built into the forest of the Kyoto mountains, a stunning reward at the end of a journey that includes an ornate sloping path, a stupendous tunnel, and a stunning bridge. Furthermore, much of the 17,400-sq m building is built underground for a large collection of Asian and Western antiques. (pic from www.archdaily)

I.M. Pei used Magny Doré limestone from France, as well as coloured concrete. (pic from www.archdaily)
Pei called the museum, Shangri-La. The roof as you can see in the above pictures is a large glass and steel construction, while the exterior and interior walls and floor are made of Magny Doré limestone from France – the same material Pei used in the reception hall of the Louvre. It was Mihoko Koyama (the heiress to the Toyobo textile business) and her daughter, Hiroko Koyama who commissioned Pei to design the museum. The museum is named after Mihoko, hence Miho Museum. (pic from www.archdaily)

 

Pei was once pilloried for plonking a glass pyramid into the courtyard of the centuries-old Louvre, reports the UK Telegraph. He endured a roasting from critics even before the giant glass structure opened in 1989, with up to 90% of Parisians said to be against the project at one point. Today, however, it’s a different story. Pei is effusively lauded for creating a masterpiece ahead of its time.

The glass pyramid of the Louvre was completed in 1988. Described by Pei as his most difficult project, it infused the world’s largest museum with a dash of modernity. The Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar was completed in 2008; Pei designed it at age 91.

Hear Pei Speak about the Louvre Pyramid

The Son Talks of His Father ─ 2017 Twenty-five Year AIA Award

Geometric designs, large abstract forms and a unique use of light are the main elements of Pei’s signature style; many of the more than 50 buildings he designed still stand out today and impress with power and clarity.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar (2008). The significance of this project convinced I.M. Pei to come out of retirement and at age 91, spend six months touring the region and studying the mosques of Spain, Syria and Tunisia. Originally slated for a site along Doha Bay, Pei initiated a new plan that would see a new island built to accommodate the museum. (pic by: dezeen.com/photography-yueqi-jazzy-li)
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar (2008): The significance of this project convinced I.M. Pei to come out of retirement and at age 91, spend six months touring the region and studying the mosques of Spain, Syria and Tunisia. Originally slated for a site along Doha Bay, Pei initiated a new plan that would see a new island built to accommodate the museum. (pic by: dezeen.com/photography-yueqi-jazzy-li)

The sandy Middle Eastern landscape inspired this pale monolith, which is all about procession: from the approach from the Corniche road, to the staggered twists of the stacked volumes that compose the main section. The interior is awe-inspiring. (pic by: dezeen.com/photography-yueqi-jazzy-li)
The sandy Middle Eastern landscape inspired this pale monolith, which is all about procession: from the approach from the Corniche road, to the staggered twists of the stacked volumes that compose the main section. The interior is awe-inspiring. (pic by: dezeen.com/photography-yueqi-jazzy-li)

 

The only condominium building he ever created is the Centurion in the heart of New York City, at 33 West 56th Street. It shares many design elements with Pei’s best structures as it combines elegant solidity with geometric precision. Pei even insisted on French limestone for the facade and the foyer of the building, the same he used at the Louvre. Exclusive materials from the East and the West form a perfect harmony.

The Centurion, NYC (2009): The only condominium building I. M.Pei ever designed, together with son Sandi, is located in Midtown Manhattan, just steps from Fifth Avenue and Central Park. A quiet oasis in the center of vibrant New York, apartments at the building have become collector's items. (pic from:www.6sqft.com)
The Centurion, NYC (2009): The only condominium building I. M.Pei ever designed, together with son Sandi, is located in Midtown Manhattan, just steps from Fifth Avenue and Central Park. A quiet oasis in the center of vibrant New York, apartments at the building have become collector’s items. (pic from:www.6sqft.com)
The graceful 19-storey Centurion’s façade. The exterior is fully clad in hand-set French “Chamesson” limestone quarried from same region as the limestone that forms the façade of The Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan, as well as the interior of The Pyramid at the Louvre museum. (pic from:www.pappironworks.com)
The graceful 19-storey Centurion’s façade. The exterior is fully clad in hand-set French “Chamesson” limestone quarried from same region as the limestone that forms the façade of The Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan, as well as the interior of The Pyramid at the Louvre museum. (pic from:www.pappironworks.com)
Penthouse at I.M Pei's Centurion Condo at 33 West 56th Street, New York (Pic: Scott Wintrow/Gamut Photos)
Penthouse at Pei’s Centurion Condo at 33 West 56th Street, New York. (Pic: Scott Wintrow/Gamut Photos)

Other than Pei’s skyscrapers and museum buildings, a piece of the Centurion can be privately owned. “We currently have two penthouses available,” says Thomas Guss of New York Residence Inc, a real estate company at NYR.com who is in charge of sales at the building. “Occasionally we even get a smaller unit for resale. Each apartment is a true collector’s item,” says Guss.

No wonder that some of the most discerning buyers from all over the world have made the Centurion their first or second home and enjoy the very private and refined experience to reside in a building created by a living legend.

The Centurion honoured his architect with a classical concert in the Waterfall Lobby of the building; Performers included pianist Marika Bournaki and The Metropolitan Chamber Players with Julian Schwarz ; an outstanding group of young world-class performers. The programme featured works by Chopin, one of I.M. Pei’s favourite composers. (source: partially from PRWire)

Last Words from the Man himself

For more stories on iconic architects and iconic structures, read The Sea Comes Alive in Nautilus House, Mexico by Javier Senosiain.

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