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IM Pei, architect who designed Louvre Pyramid, dies at 102

18 May 2019

I.M. Pei, the world-renowned modernist architect whose work includes the Louvre pyramid, died at his home in NY at the age of 102, his sons' architecture firm has confirmed.

Pei's pyramid at the Louvre was a striking contrast to the museum's existing structures in classic French style and was reviled by many French. His other notable works include the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Ohio.

He was also behind NY projects such as the Silver Towers of University Village on the West Side, Kips Bay Towers on the East Side and the 11-story building for the Mission of Korea on East 45th Street near UN Headquarters.

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Canton, China (now Guangzhou), on April 26, 1917, the son of a bank manager.

He then enrolled in Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, where he received a master's degree in architecture in 1946. But he also was interested in architecture as art - and the effect he could create. He topped it off with a transparent tent-like structure, which was "open - like the music", he said.

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Pei designed the air traffic control tower at Lambert St. Louis International Airport in St. Louis. Later in life, with buildings like the Miho Museum outside Kyoto and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, he deftly translated his modernist vocabulary into different cultural contexts, and perhaps nowhere more so than in China.

"If the problem is a complicated problem, then the building will result just that way", Pei said.

Pei also designed the West Wing addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

He elaborated on those geometric shapes in the design of the marble-clad East Building of the National Gallery (1978), the most acclaimed of Pei's projects. He also won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, 1983, and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, 1979. President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

However, he continued to work on projects - including museums in Luxembourg, Qatar and his ancestral home of Suzhou.

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Pei worked designing buildings across the country and taking his own commissions, including the Luce Memorial Chapel in Taiwan and the Green Earth Sciences building at MIT until 1960, when he launched his own independent firm, I.M. Pei and Associates.

The museum in Qatar that opened in 2008 was inspired by Islamic architectural history, especially the 9th century mosque of Ahmed ibn Tulun in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

On the most important, the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, China, he collaborated with his architect sons, Chien Chung and Li Chung. He later said, "I did not know what architecture really was in China".

After working briefly for the US National Defense Research Committee during World War II, he began his career as an architect at Webb & Knapp, Inc., the firm of American real estate developer William Zeckendorf in 1948.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters and New York Times news reports.

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The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (above), which opened in 1986, was designed by Pei.

IM Pei, architect who designed Louvre Pyramid, dies at 102