As renowned architect IM Pei dies – 5 of his masterpieces to visit around the world

17th May 19 | Lifestyle

His portfolio stretches from Ohio to Hong Kong.

The Louvre Pyramid in Paris

You may not have heard of leoh Ming Pei, but you’re definitely familiar with his work. The Chinese-American architect won the Pritzker Prize in 1983 – architecture’s answer to the Nobels – and was the creative force behind several of the world’s most remarkable buildings.

Few architects are so celebrated, and even fewer are so well-travelled. Pei moved from China to the US in 1935, and has since designed buildings everywhere from Boston to Singapore. His work rests heavily on geometry, plain surfaces and careful use of light, leading to a roster of angular, subversive builds that could be controversial in their time.

Pei has died at the age of 102, his death was confirmed by a spokesman at his New York architecture firm. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Here are five of our favourites in the incredible collection of work he left behind, ranging from ‘I didn’t know he built that’, to ‘I’ve never heard of it but it’s cool’…

 1. The Louvre Pyramid, Paris

A angular vortex of geometric glass perfectly blended with its classical Renaissance surroundings, it seems extraordinary now that the Pei’s pyramid outside the Louvre was widely vilified when it was completed in 1989. Its modernist style infuriated traditionalists, some of whom took rather uncomfortable swipes at Pei’s nationality. He was unmoved though: “If there’s one thing I know I didn’t do wrong,” he said, “it’s the Louvre.”

2. The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

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I.M. Pei, Museum of Islamic Art, 2008.

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A bonus building for fans of Pei’s architecture, the master had to be coaxed out of retirement to build this Qatari museum at the age of 91. Not an expert in Islamic art, Pei began his research for the building by reading a biography of the Prophet Muhammad, and then spent months travelling the Muslim world. The result was an elegant, understated building, that appears halfway between the Arab architecture of old, and stripped back 20th century brutalism.

3. Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong

A cascade of vast, interlocking triangles that each catch the light at a different moment, the Bank of China Tower was the tallest building outside the US when it opened in 1990, and the first to break the 1,000 ft mark. Now widely heralded a masterpiece, initial reaction was marred by the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. News conferences were cancelled, and Pei himself excoriated the Chinese government in a piece in the New York Times.

4. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

A characteristically geometric blend of coordinated shapes, this lakeside legacy item was designed to be provocative. In order to “echo the energy of rock and roll”, Pei dispensed with architectural consistency and built a large glass ‘tent’ with cylindrical outcrop, anchored by a 162 ft tower. The building was officially unveiled in 1993 by, among others, Pete Townshend, Chuck Berry, and Billy Joel.

5. Mesa Laboratory, Colorado

Finished in 1966, this atmospheric research complex marked one of Pei’s first independent commissions. Pei took care to immerse himself in the history and culture surrounding his work, and drew inspiration from the Native American cave dwellings in the south west of the state. The sheer, concrete walls loom over the landscape like cliff-faces, as if chiselled from the rock on which they reside.

© Press Association 2019

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