I. M. Pei

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial, Wikipedia.
I. M. Pei
BirthplaceCanton (Guangzhou), China

Pei, I. M.

Pei, I. M. (Ieoh Ming Pei) (pā), 1917–2019, Chinese-American architect, b. Guangzhou, China. Pei immigrated to the United States in 1935 and studied at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard, where he taught from 1945 to 1948. That year he joined Webb and Knapp, Inc.; there he designed such projects as Mile High Center in Denver (1954–59). He established his own firm in 1955. In his works, structure and environment are carefully integrated with precise geometrical design and a superb sense of craft, resulting in crisp, clear, sculptural structures. He is known for his sensuous use of such materials as marble, concrete, glass, and steel and for his soaring, light-filled interior spaces. Pei's involvement in urban planning included the Government Center, Boston (1961), and Society Hill, Philadelphia (with Edmund N. Bacon, 1964).

Among his notable later buildings are the John Hancock Tower, Boston (1973); the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1978); the Jacob Javits Exposition and Convention Center, New York City (1986); the 72-story Bank of China, Hong Kong (1989); the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, with tower and glass pyramid, Cleveland (1995); the Miho Museum, Kyoto, Japan (1998); a new wing of the German Historical Museum, Berlin (2003); and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar (2008). His master plan for the Louvre's expansion and renovation (1987–89) initially outraged critics, in large part because of the 70-ft (21-m) steel-framed glass-walled pyramid (1993) that formed the entrance to the museum's new underground section. The pyramid has since become a Parisian landmark. Pei won the Pritzker Prize in 1983. In 1990 he retired from active management of his firm.


See P. Jodidio et al., I. M. Pei: Complete Works (2008); G. Von Boehm, Conversations with I. M. Pei: Light is the Key (2000); biography by M. Cannell (1995); biographical study by C. Wiseman (1990); studies by C. Wiseman (2001) and J. Rubalcaba (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Pei, I. M. (Ieoh Ming)

(1917–  ) architect; born in Canton, China. He emigrated to the U.S.A. (1935) and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and with Walter Gropius at Harvard. He was director of architecture with the contracting firm Webb and Knapp (1948–55) before establishing his own New York firm (1955), later to become Pei, Cobb Freed and Partners. From the outset Pei was associated with large-scale multipurpose developments, often connected with urban revitalization; his designs include some of the principal commercial, cultural, and educational buildings of the late 20th century, including the Hancock Building (1972) and John F. Kennedy Library (1979), both in Boston; the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1978); and the controversial glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre, Paris (1983–89); in recent years he undertook major buildings in China and Hong Kong. Pei's buildings are characterized by their carefully, often dramatically arranged masses, use of exterior landscape in interior design through thoughtful siting, and technological innovation (he pioneered, for example, all-glass curtain walls).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.