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I. M. Pei

I.M. Pei (June 2006).jpg
Pei in 2006
Ieoh Ming Pei

(1917-04-26)April 26, 1917
Guangzhou, Guangdong, Republic of China
Died May 16, 2019(2019-05-16) (aged 102)
New York City, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BArch)
Harvard University (MArch)
Occupation Architect
Eileen Loo
(m. 1942; died 2014)
Children 4
  • I. M. Pei & Associates (1955–2019)
  • I. M. Pei & Partners (1966–2019)
  • Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (1989–2019)
  • Pei Partnership Architects (consultant, 1992–2019)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 貝聿銘
Simplified Chinese 贝聿铭

Ieoh Ming Pei FAIA RIBA ( yoh-_-ming-_-pay; Chinese: 貝聿銘; pinyin: Bèi Yùmíng; April 26, 1917 – May 16, 2019) was a Chinese-American architect.


As a child, Pei found the Shizilin Garden in Suzhou to be "an ideal playground".

Ieoh Ming Pei was born on April 26, 1917, to Tsuyee and Lien Kwun, and the family moved to Hong Kong one year later. As a boy, Pei was very close to his mother, a devout Buddhist who was recognized for her skills as a flautist.

Pei studied in St. Paul's College in Hong Kong as a child. When Pei was 10, his father received a promotion and relocated with his family to Shanghai. Pei attended St. John's Middle School, the secondary school of St. John's University that was run by Anglican missionaries. Academic discipline was rigorous; students were allowed only one half-day each month for leisure. Pei enjoyed playing billiards and watching Hollywood movies, especially those of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. He also learned rudimentary English skills by reading the Bible and novels by Charles Dickens.

Customs House and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank
Pei describes the architecture of Shanghai's Bund waterfront area (seen here in a 2004 photo) as "very much a colonial past".

Shanghai's many international elements gave it the name "Paris of the East". The city's global architectural flavors had a profound influence on Pei.

Soon after the move to Shanghai, Pei's mother developed cancer. She died shortly after his thirteenth birthday, and he was profoundly upset.

In 1935, Pei moved to the United States and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school, but he quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture, and spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier.


After graduating, Pei joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and became a friend of the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zeckendorf, for whom he worked for seven years before establishing an independent design firm in 1955, I. M. Pei & Associates. In 1966 that became I. M. Pei & Partners, and in 1989 became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Pei retired from full-time practice in 1990. In his retirement, he worked as an architectural consultant primarily from his sons' architectural firm Pei Partnership Architects.

Pei's first major recognition came with the Mesa Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado (designed in 1961, and completed in 1967). His new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He went on to design Dallas City Hall and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. He returned to China for the first time in 1975 to design a hotel at Fragrant Hills, and designed Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, a skyscraper in Hong Kong for the Bank of China fifteen years later. In the early 1980s, Pei was the focus of controversy when he designed a glass-and-steel pyramid for the Louvre in Paris. He later returned to the world of the arts by designing the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Miho Museum in Japan, Shigaraki, near Kyoto, and the chapel of the junior and high school: MIHO Institute of Aesthetics, the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, abbreviated to Mudam, in Luxembourg.


Pei died in May 2019, at 102 years of age.

Style and method

Louvre Museum Wikimedia Commons
Pei decided that a pyramid was "most compatible" with the other structures at the Louvre, complementing their roofs' faceted planes.

Pei was known for combining traditional architectural principles with progressive designs based on simple geometric patterns. Circles, squares, and triangles are common elements of his work in both plan and elevation.

Awards and honors

Pei won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of architecture, including the AIA Gold Medal in 1979. In 1986, he was one of twelve recipients of the Medal of Liberty. Pei was awarded the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in 2003. In 1983, he won the Pritzker Prize, which is sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

Pei was also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Personal life

Pei's wife of over 70 years, Eileen Loo, died on June 20, 2014. Together they had three sons, T'ing Chung (1945–2003), Chien Chung (b. 1946; known as Didi), and Li Chung (b. 1949; known as Sandi); and a daughter, Liane (b. 1960). T'ing Chung was an urban planner and alumnus of his father's alma mater MIT and Harvard. Chieng Chung and Li Chung, who are both Harvard College and Harvard Graduate School of Design alumni, founded and run Pei Partnership Architects. Liane is a lawyer.

In 2015, Pei's home health aide, Eter Nikolaishvili, grabbed Pei's right forearm and twisted it, resulting in bruising and bleeding and hospital treatment. Pei alleges that the assault occurred when Pei threatened to call the police about Nikolaishvili. Nikolaishvili agreed to plead guilty in 2016.

Pei celebrated his 100th birthday on April 26, 2017. He died at his Manhattan apartment on May 16, 2019, at the age of 102. He was survived by his three adult children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ieoh Ming Pei para niños

  • List of I. M. Pei projects
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