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IM Pei dies aged 102

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Pritzker Prize-winning architect IM Pei has died, aged 102

Born in Guangzhou, China, in 1917, Ieoh Ming Pei was awarded architecture’s greatest accolade in 1983.

He is perhaps best known for designing the glass pyramid entrance pavilion at the Louvre in Paris (1989) but tributes have been pouring in on social media for buildings he created around the world.

Pei used the $100,000 that came with the Pritzker Prize to set up a scholarship for Chinese people to study architecture in the United States.

He had made this journey himself, moving to the USA in 1935 to study, first at the University of Pennsylvania, then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

In 1948, he became director of architecture at developer Webb & Knapp, working on projects in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh and other cities.

Seven years later he formed IM Pei & Associates, which became IM Pei & Partners in 1966 and won the 1968 Architectural Firm Award of The American Institute of Architects. In 1989 the firm was renamed Pei Cobb Freed and Partners.

Pei picked up the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in 1979, and the RIBA Gold Medal in 2009. In 2014 the International Union of Architects awarded him its highest accolade, a Gold Medal.

Judges for that award said it recognised Pei’s life and work across ‘the history of modern architecture over five continents for more than 60 years’ and honoured his ‘unique style, timeless rigour and spiritual connection to history, time and space’.

Just one Pei-designed project was built in the UK: a pyramid-shaped folly at Oare House in Wiltshire.

Foster + Partners founder Norman Foster said Pei was ’an inspiration and a true master of monumental modernism’.

He added: ’Pei’s standing in the profession is assured – he won every major accolade there is – but in the public mind he will always be intimately associated with his sensitive yet bold extension to the Louvre in Paris. A startling and brilliantly simple and elegant intervention, its transparent entrance is respectful of existing structures, yet simultaneously eye catching. It has clearly stood the test of time to become one of Paris’s most cherished icons.

’He is one of the greats and will surely be missed by us all. Yet, he leaves behind a formidable legacy that will continue to influence architects and designers for decades to come.’

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said Pei would be remembered for his ‘humane modernism’ which had touched a generation of architects.

’IM Pei’s prolific contribution to architecture spans the globe and two centuries. His life’s work is represented across continents, gifting a series of modernist masterpieces to cities from Hong Kong and Paris to Colorado and latterly Souzhou, his childhood home.

He added: ’It is a rarity for one architect to have such a vast portfolio of exceptional international work, but he will be remembered for much more than the robust, geometrical yet elegantly civic architecture.’


Read the AJ’s profile of IM Pei from 2010 when he received the RIBA Royal Gold Medal

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