May 17, 2019

10 of the Most Influential Works by I.M. Pei

I.M Pei, the internationally celebrated architect whose work spanned seven decades, died May 16 in New York. Inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 2017, Pei was a modernist whose striking works included notable cultural institutions and civic buildings. Here are 10 significant builds.

> Read the full obituary here

1. East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, 1978

Photography by John Nicolais/Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania.

The East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC by I.M. Pei & Partners features two triangular buildings joined by a sky-lit central atrium and totaling 604,000 square feet. The project was named one of America’s Ten Best Buildings by the American Institute of Architects in 1986 and later given its 25 Year Award in 2004. 

2. Expansion of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, 1989 

Photography by Stéphane Couturier.

The project to modernize and expand the Louvre museum in Paris was undertaken by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects with the mission to leave the historic palace structure unchanged. The solution was a completely new entrance in the central courtyard—beneath a modern glass pyramid—that unites the galleries in the Louvre’s three wings. The design received numerous awards and accolades after its debut as well as the American Institute of Architects’ 25 Year Award in 2017.

3. New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 1986

Photography by Thorney Lieberman.

James Ingo Freed, then a partner 
at I.M. Pei & Partners, was the lead designer on the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a building familiar to those who have attended trade shows and other events there, but also to all New Yorkers. Overlooking the Hudson River in Midtown Manhattan, the 1.6 million-square-foot Javits Center features the 15-story Crystal Palace.  

4. Suspension Bridge, 1997

Photography by Higashide Photo Studio.

Located in Koka City, Japan, this suspension bridge over a valley connects to an entry tunnel at I.M. Pei Architect’s Miho Museum, 80 percent of which is located underground to preserve the region’s natural beauty. Visitors must first pass through a tunnel and then this bridge before arriving at the museum, designed with limestone walls and a multi-angled glass roof. 

5. Luce Memorial Chapel, 1963

Photography courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects.

Located on the campus of Tungai University in Taichung, Taiwan, this Christian chapel was designed by  I.M. Pei  at the time his firm was known as I.M. Pei & Associates, in collaboration with Chen Chi-Kwan. The walls were constructed by local craftsmen of reinforced concrete, are 63-feet tall, and are covered in glazed, diamond-shaped tiles.

6. Bank of China tower, 1989

Photography by Paul Warchol.

When in Hong Kong, it’s impossible not to notice the 72-story Bank of China Tower, designed by Pei Cobb Freed in 1989. Its exterior is clad in glass and mirrors that reflect the ever-changing sky and marked by distinctive X’s. Designed with a composite structural system of steel and concrete, the 1.4-million-square-foot building received the China Tall Building Legacy Award in 2016.

7. Fragrant Hill Hotel, 1982

Photography by Marc Riboud.

Located outside of Beijing, the Fragrant Hill Hotel was I.M. Pei’s first project in his native China. The build, by I.M. Pei & Partners, is a low-rise construction set around courtyards and designed to preserve the natural rocks and trees on the site.

8. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 1995

Photography by Timothy Hursley.

Pei was the lead designer on this Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects project set on four acres on the coast of Lake Erie in Cleveland. The design for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum combines simple geometric forms: a cantilevered theater balanced by a circular performance drum with a 165-foot orthogonal tower rising from the water to anchor a tetrahedral glass tent. 

9. Miho Institute of Aesthetics Chapel, 2012

Photography by Higashide Photo Studio.

Located in Shigaraki, Japan, the Miho Institute of Aesthetics Chapel by I.M. Pei Architect features more than 8,000 Japanese red cedar planks on its soaring interior walls and 51 custom stainless-steel panels on its tear-drop-shaped exterior. It was Pei’s last significant work. 

10. Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 1989

Photography courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

Featuring an outward-looking lobby, the an a 2,000-seat inward-facing concert hall, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas’s Arts District was designed as both a pleasing place to make and listen to music as well as an inviting spot to gather in between performances. It received a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1991.

Read more: Paul Goldberger on I.M. Pei at 100

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