His portfolio included the Louvre pyramid, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Dallas City Hall and Symphony Orchestra in Texas

By Robyn Merrett
May 16, 2019 08:38 PM
Bernard Bisson/Sygma via Getty

The architect behind some of the world’s most well-known structures, I.M. Pei, has died.

Pei’s design firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners announced the news on Thursday. He was 102.

According to his son and fellow designer Li Chung Pei, the internationally celebrated artist died last night, The New York Times reported.

Born in Guangzhou, China, in 1917, Pei began his career at an early age when he migrated to the U.S. to study architecture when he was only 17, according to his website.

He received his bachelor’s degree from MIT in 1940 and his master’s in 1946 from Harvard Graduate School of Design. He became an American citizen in 1954.

In 1948, Pei accepted a director of architecture position with a New York-based real estate development company where he and a team of young designers completed the Mile High Center in Denver in 1956, the Southwest Washington Urban Renewal Plan in 1962 and Society Hill in Philadelphia in 1964.

Pei soon became known for his style after designing the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado in 1967.

Paris I.M. Pei

He then embarked on a plethora of museum projects, including his most controversial — the glass pyramid he designed as a new entrance to the Louvre in Paris, which was completed in 1989.

The construction of the pyramid was widely criticized for its modernist style and not being consistent with the familiar French Renaissance design.

It has since been recognized as one of Paris’ most treasured landmarks.

“Contemporary architects tend to impose modernity on something. There is a certain concern for history but it is not very deep,” Pei told The New York Times in a 2008 interview about the project.

“I understand that times have changed, we have evolved. But I don’t want to forget the beginning.”

Pei also designed the Miho Museum in Shiga, Japan in 1997, Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, China in 2006 and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha in 2008 and The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

I.M. Pei
Dario Cantatore/Getty

In addition to museums, Pei has worked on churches, hospitals, banks and libraries.

He is also known for the 72-story Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong — completed in 1989.

Some of his other buildings include the Dallas City Hall and Symphony Orchestra in Texas, the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City and the JP Morgan Chase Tower in Texas.

The famed artist has won several awards including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1983 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.

Since the news of his death broke, several iconic architects have paid tribute to Pei.

I.M. Pei at The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty

“What’s interesting about I.M’s museums, as opposed to maybe many others’, is he’s concerned about the galleries, obviously, but he’s also concerned about the public space as part of the museum,” Richard Meier, known for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, said, according to Departures.

Paul Goldberger, former architecture critic for The New York Times said “Pei’s always been extraordinarily gracious bu a little reserved. He makes himself hard to pin down. It’s very clever — not ruse, but facade, perhaps: this smooth, courteous exterior that is very hard to penetrate.”

Goldberger also spoke of Pei’s death on Twitter writing, “The end of an architectural era, truly. A sad moment, but a career — and a life — worthy of celebration.”