Ieoh Ming Pei was born in China in 1917, the son of a prominent banker. At age 17 he came to the United States to study architecture, and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from MIT in 1940. He was awarded the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, the MIT Traveling Fellowship and the AIA Gold Medal upon graduation. In 1942, Pei enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he studied under Walter Gropius; six months later, he volunteered his services to the National Defence Research Committee in Princeton. Pei returned to Harvard in 1944 and completed his M.Arch in 1946, simultaneously teaching on the faculty as assistant professor (1945–48). Awarded the Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship by Harvard in 1951, he traveled extensively in England, France, Italy and Greece. I.M. Pei became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 1954.
In 1948, William Zeckendorf invited Pei to accept the newly created post of Director of Architecture at Webb & Knapp real estate development corporation, resulting in many large-scale architectural and planning projects across the country. In 1955 he formed the partnership of I. M. Pei & Associates, which became I. M. Pei & Partners in 1966, and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989. The partnership received the 1968 Architectural Firm Award of the American Institute of Architects.
Mr. Pei’s personal architectural style blossomed with his design for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado (1961–67). He subsequently gained broad national attention with the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington (1968–78) and the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston (1965-79)— two of some thirty institutional projects executed by Pei, including church, hospital and municipal buildings, as well as schools, libraries, and over a dozen museums. Pei’s work in China includes the Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing (1982), designed to graft advanced technology onto the roots of indigenous building and thereby sow the seed of a new, distinctly Chinese, form of modern architecture. Among Pei’s skyscraper designs are the 72-story Bank of China in Hong Kong and the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Manhattan. His most recent work includes the Miho Museum in Shiga, Japan, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, the Grand Louvre in Paris, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Musée d’Art Moderne in Luxembourg, and the Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar.
Born: 26 April 1917 in Canton, China
Died: 16 May 2019
Elected Hon RA: 10 December 1993
Preferred media: Architecture