IM Pei, Pritzker Prize-winning architect, passes away at 102


In this November 3, 2003, photo, Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei stands with the plans of the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou in eastern China's Jiangsu Province.

Pei, who celebrated his 102th birthday on April 26, died in NY, his sons' architecture firm Pei Partnership Architects confirmed Thursday.

His death was confirmed today by a spokesman at his NY architecture firm.

I.M. Pei with the architectural model of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris in September 1985.

In the late 1960s, he completed the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, the Everson Museum of Art in NY and the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa, before working on the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

In 1990, the Bank of China Tower opened - and his modern, soaring design instantly became one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Hong Kong.

"I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris", Pei later said, confessing that "after the Louvre, I thought no project would be too hard".

"I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art", Pei said.

The architect was also awarded the title of Chevalier in the Legion d'Honneur by then-French president Francois Mitterrand in 1988 for the project of Louvre's glass pyramid, later raising him to the rank of Officier when Phase II of the glass-and-stainless steel Grand Louvre pyramid was completed in 1993. "I want to find the originality in the time, the place, and the problem". Pei, who admitted he was just catching up with the Beatles, researched the roots of rock "n" roll and came up with an array of contrasting shapes for the museum.

Pei has received numerous awards for his work, among them the the Gold Medal for Architecture of 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 in 1992, which was presented to him by President George H.W. Bush. His father worked as a banker and his mother was an artist. Their father's firm, previously I M Pei and Partners, was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

Pei designed the east building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. As an "expert" in Japanese construction, his job was to determine the best way to burn down Japanese towns.

In 1948, New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf hired Pei as his director of architecture.

Some of his early successes included the Mile High Center office building in Denver, the Kips Bay Plaza Apartments in Manhattan, and the Society Hill apartment complex in Philadelphia.

The project was the result of a recommendation made by Vincent Ponte, a NY city planner who visited Australia in late 1969 and suggested that "ANZ, AMP Society and Mainline Corporation get together to use their total of three and a third acres [approximately 13,500 square metres] to develop a joint venture", reported the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 June, 1971.

Pei - who had four children with wife Eileen Loo, who died in 2014 after 72 years of marriage - also outlived some of his own designs.

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (above), which opened in 1986, was designed by Pei.