I.M. Pei, Architect Of Some Of The World's Most Iconic Structures, Dies At 102

作者:未知 来源:美国国家公共电台 2019-05-18


The architect I.M. Pei designed some of the most significant buildings of the last 60 years - the pyramid entrance to the Louvre museum in Paris, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, to name just three. I.M. Pei died today. He was 102 years old. NPR's Ted Robbins has this remembrance.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: I.M. Pei's best-known work was not well-received. He took a parking lot in front of one of Paris's most treasured sites, the Louvre, and he made a new entrance to the museum - a large glass pyramid. In a PBS documentary, the architect with the easy smile and the signature round glasses recalled how he was slammed after the pyramid opened in 1988.


I M PEI: No, I would say the first year and a half was really hell. I really couldn't walk the streets of Paris without people walking and look at me as if to say, there you go again; what are you doing here? What are you doing to us? What are you doing to our great Louvre?

ROBBINS: Two decades passed, and in 2009, NPR's Susan Stamberg revisited the site. The Louvre's director at the time, Henri Loyrette, called the pyramid a masterpiece.


HENRI LOYRETTE: And when you ask the visitors, why are you coming to the Louvre, they give mainly three answers - for the Mona Lisa, for the Venus of Milo and for the pyramid.

ROBBINS: Not the first time shock has given way to admiration in architecture, but I.M. Pei didn't like labels. He said there is no such thing as modern, post-modern or deconstruct architecture. Listen to him back in 1970, though, talking with WGBH on the site of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which he designed, in Boulder, Colo.


PEI: And if the problem is a complicated problem, then the building will result just that way. But after that we'll have - then have to simplify it. We'll have to then eliminate the unessential.

ROBBINS: That is pretty much the definition of modernism in architecture - eliminate the inessential, leaving clean lines and spare geometric forms. Though again on PBS, Pei said his architecture is not just geometry.


PEI: There are many other elements that come into play to create a form - space, which is what architecture really is. You have to have light. Now, light is terribly important. What are shapes if there's no light? The light of the sun is magical because it changes so much.

ROBBINS: I.M. Pei was born in Suzhou, China. He grew up in a house where gardens and airy pavilions merged with the landscape. Pei biographer Carter Wiseman told journalist Edward Lifson, who contributed to this remembrance, that the natural world deeply influenced Pei.


CARTER WISEMAN: Having come from China where he was exposed to garden architecture, he had a very different concept of time. He was interested in the sculptural properties of rocks. There was an affinity for nature and for history that most Americans do not get no matter how hard we try.

ROBBINS: Pei's father was a banker, his mother an artist. He came to the U.S. as a teenager in 1935, went to MIT and was influenced by the work of pioneering modernist Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Pei's privileged upbringing helped him navigate the alpha male world of architecture and real estate. He was able to schmooze with the powerful, which led to projects like the apartments on Manhattan's East Side called the Kips Bay Towers, the Kennedy Library in Boston and the east wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Pei didn't get everything right. His design for New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, for instance, is still less than loved. In 1990, the Bank of China Tower opened, and his modern, soaring design instantly became one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Hong Kong. Younger Chinese architects like Wang Shu admired I.M. Pei's success.

WANG SHU: It really awakened something to me.

ROBBINS: Wang Shu, like I.M. Pei decades earlier, won the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He says Pei figured out a way to bridge East and West, old and new. He gives Pei a high compliment, calling him teacher.

WANG: Teacher means he do something before me, and I can think about in his work which way is right.

ROBBINS: From the Macau Science Center to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, I.M. Pei continued building through 2009. His name, I.M. - it stands for Ieoh Ming, which roughly means to make an indelible mark. I.M. Pei certainly did that. Ted Robbins, NPR News. [POST BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio, as in a previous version of the Web story, we say that I.M. Pei was born in Suzhou, China. In fact, he was born in Guangzhou.]