People

I.M. Pei 'master' architect reaches century mark

People

I.M. Pei 'master' architect reaches century mark

I.M.Pei poses in front of the Louvre pyramid in the museum’s Napoleon Courtyard in Paris. PIERRE GLEIZES / ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of the world’s most iconic and prolific modern architects, Chinese-American I.M. Pei, turned 100 years old on Wednesday.

In a birthday tribute, British architect Sir Norman Foster called Pei “a true master of monumental modernism” and “one of the greats”.

“A commitment to the purity of form is a strain that flows through his life’s work,” Foster told Architect.com.

Foster cited the angular marble structure of the East Building at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Washington and the Louvre Pyramid extension as standout examples of his work.

Other iconic designs include the Bank of China Tower, one of the most recognizable parts of Hong Kong’s skyline, the inverted pyramid of Dallas City Hall, the JFK Memorial Library and Museum in Boston and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Born in Guangzhou on April 26, 1917, Ieoh Ming Pei grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai before studying at Harvard with Bauhaus school founder Walter Gropius.

In 1948, he was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zekendorf and set up his own firm in New York in 1955.

In 1975, he returned to China for the first time to design a hotel for Fragrant Hills Park, a historic imperial garden in the foothills of the Western Mountains of Haidian district.

In addition to numerous awards, Pei was awarded the Pritzker Prize – the “Nobel of architecture” – in 1983.

Pei endured a roasting from critics before the giant glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris opened in 1989, with up to 90 percent of Parisians said to be against the project at one point.

“I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris,” Pei later said.

But with time, eyesore turned to icon. The French daily Le Figaro, which had led the campaign against the “atrocious” design, celebrated its genius with a supplement on the 10th anniversary of its opening.

Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre’s current director, said the pyramid has become “the modern symbol of the museum”.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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