I. M. Pei, born in 1917, Chinese American architect, one of the most innovative and prolific 20th-century architects. He is noted for the geometrical simplicity yet elegant details of his designs for corporate, institutional, and government clients. Pei never formulated a distinctly personal style, preferring instead to adapt the established forms of 20th-century modernism to the particular requirements of individual projects. Modern Architecture.
Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou (Canton), China. He immigrated to the United States in 1935 and studied architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. After receiving a master’s degree from Harvard in 1946, he taught at the university’s Graduate School of Design for two years. In 1948 he became the head architect for Webb & Knapp, a real-estate development firm. His early admiration for the work of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is apparent in the Mile High Center (completed in 1956), a metal-and-glass skyscraper on a pedestrian plaza in Denver, Colorado. Other designs for Webb & Knapp display Pei’s ability as an urban planner. These include the Place Ville-Marie (1962), an office complex with plazas and shops in downtown Montréal, Québec; and apartment buildings at Kips Bay Plaza (1963) in New York City.
Pei became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1954, and in 1956 he established his own firm, I. M. Pei & Partners. It has been known since 1989 as Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in acknowledgement of the significant contributions of Pei’s longtime partners, Henry Cobb and James Freed. In 1983, Pei won the Pritzker Prize, the highest award in architecture. The award praised Pei for having “given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms.” Pei’s firm has been responsible for some of the largest public and private construction projects in the United States and abroad, from the mid-20th century on.
Among Pei’s best known structures of the 1970s are the East Building (1978) of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., a striking triangular composition of marble, concrete, and glass; and the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum (1979) in Boston, Massachusetts, a triangular ten-story tower with a museum at its base. Major projects of the 1980s and 1990s include the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center (1986) in Dallas, Texas; the pyramid-shaped glass entrance (1989) in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France; the Bank of China, Hong Kong, China (1989); and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (1995) on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio. Although Pei stepped down as a partner in his firm in 1990, he continued to work. His design for the Musée d’Art Moderne was under construction in Luxembourg in the early 2000s.