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I.M. Pei circa 1985.

I.M. Pei (1917–2019)

Ieoh Ming Pei—the celebrated Chinese American architect, known as I.M. Pei, whose oeuvre includes more than fifty projects ranging from the iconic addition to the Louvre, a glass-and-steel pyramid designed for the historic building’s central courtyard, to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, which incorporates the geometries and patterns that make up the “essence of Islamic architecture”—has died, the New York Times reports. He was one hundred and two years old.

Born on April 26, 1917 in Guangzhou, the Canton province of China, Pei came to the United States to study architecture in 1935. He first enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He eventually earned his master’s degree at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where he learned from leading architects such as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

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. During his time there, he was involved in major architectural and planning projects in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, and Pittsburgh, among other cities. In 1955, he formed his own firm in New York, the partnership of I.M. Pei & Associates—which underwent several name changes before it became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989—and in 1968, it received the Architectural Firm Award of the American Institute of Architects.

Over the course of his prolific career, Pei designed cultural institutions such as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston (1967); the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York (1968); the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (1978); the Miho Museum in Shiga, Japan (1997); and the Suzhou Museum in China (2006). His commercial projects include the seventy-two-story Bank of China in Hong Kong (1989), which was designed to withstand typhoon-force winds, and the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Manhattan (1993).

Pei received numerous awards for his work, among them the Gold Medal for Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979; the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1983; the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989; and the Medal of Freedom, which was presented to him by President George H.W. Bush, in 1992. 

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