Born Ieoh Ming Pei on April 26, 1917, in Canton, Guangzhou, China, I. M. Pei is one of the world’s most famous architects. When he was 17 years old, he traveled to the United States, initially attending the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before transferring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1940.
Pei soon continued his studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where he had the opportunity to study with German architect and founder of the Bauhaus design movement Walter Gropius. During World War II, Pei took a break from his education to work for the National Defense Research Committee. In 1944, he returned to Harvard and earned his master’s degree in architecture two years later. Around this time, Pei also worked an assistant professor at the university.
In 1948, Pei joined New York-based architectural firm Webb & Knapp, Inc., as its director of architecture. In 1955 he left to start his own firm, I. M. Pei & Associates (now known as Pei Cobb Freed & Partners). One of his first major projects was the Mile High Center in Denver, Colorado. Pei also devised several urban renewal plans for areas of Washington, D.C., Boston and Philadelphia around this time.
I. M. Pie, who turns 100 on April 26, 2017, has drawn on a dazzling range of influences, from Chinese gardens to ancient Colorado cliff dwellings to the fountain in a Cairo mosque. Pei generally designs sophisticated glass clad buildings loosely related to the high-tech movement. However, many of his designs result from original design concepts. He frequently works on a large scale and is renowned for his sharp, geometric designs.
Due to his reliance on abstract form and materials such as stone, concrete, glass, and steel, Pei has been considered a disciple of Walter Gropius. However, Pei shows little concern with theory. He does not believe that architecture must find forms to express the times or that it should remain isolated from commercial forces.
I.M. Pei has designed over fifty projects in this country and abroad, many of which have been award winners. His more prominent commissions have included the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Le Grand Louvre in Paris, France; the Bank of China in Hong Kong; the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library near Boston; the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado; the Dallas City Hall in Texas; The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas; the Society Hill development in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation Centre (OCBC) and Raffles City in Singapore; the West Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing, China; Creative Artists Agency Headquarters in Beverly Hills, California; the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York; an IBM Office Complex in Somers, NY and another in Purchase, NY; the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; and the Texas Commerce Tower in Houston.
He has designed arts facilities and university buildings on the campuses of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, Cornell University, the Choate School, Syracuse University, New York University and the University of Hawaii.
As a student, he was awarded the MIT Traveling Fellowship, and the Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship at Harvard. His subsequent honors’ include the following: the Brunner Award,the Medal of Honor of the New York Chapter of the AIA, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Medal for Architecture, the Gold Medal for Architecture of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Alpha Rho Chi Gold Medal, la Grande Medaille d’Or of l’Academie d’Architecture (France), and The Gold Medal of The American Institute of Architects. In 1982, the deans of the architectural schools of the United States chose I.M. Pei as the best designer of significant non-residential structures