Spotlight: I.M. Pei

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Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei (born April 26, 1917), is arguably the greatest living member of the modernist generation of architects. When he received his Pritzker Prize in 1983, the jury citation stated that he “has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms.”

Le Grand Louvre © Greg Kristo. ImageLe Grande Louvre

Born in Suzhou, China, I.M. Pei grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai before deciding to move to the United States to study architecture. Though he was uninspired by the Beaux-Arts traditions at both the University Pennsylvania and MIT, a professor convinced him to persevere. He received his Bachelor’s degree in 1940, when the second Sino-Japanese War forced him to abandon his plans to return to his home country – in the end a fortuitous event for the young architect, as it allowed him to discover the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, where Pei worked with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

Bank of China Tower. Image © Stephen Chipp –

Pei founded his own practice in 1955, then known as I. M. Pei & Associates but later changing its name to Pei & Partners in 1966 and finally to in 1989. During these years, the firm’s most well known work is likely his crystalline extension to the Louvre in Paris; other highly influential works include the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and the JFK Presidential Library in Boston. In 1990, Pei retired from full-time practice, progressively reducing his workload over the following decades. However, he still takes on some work as an architectural consultant, often for Pei Partnership Architects, the firm founded by his sons Chien Chung Pei and Li Chung Pei.

JFK Presidential Library. Image © Daniel Cooper

Though known as a modernist, Pei has rejected the implications of globalism inherent in the “International Style,” instead advocating contextual development and variation in style. He has commented that “the important distinction is between a stylistic approach to the design; and an analytical approach giving the process of due consideration to time, place, and purpose.” On a trip to China in 1974 he even urged Chinese architects to look more to their architectural tradition, rather than designing in a Western style.

East Building, National Gallery of Art. Image © Flickr: username- Andy961

Check out some of Pei’s greatest works featured on ArchDaily via the thumbnails below:

Fourth Annual Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts Presented to I.M. PeiI.M. Pei awarded with the RIBA Royal Gold Medal 2010Texas Society of Architects’ 25-Year Award Presented to I. M. Pei & Partners’ Fountain Place

Cite: Stott, Rory. "Spotlight: I.M. Pei" 26 Apr 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • naser_jafaryani


  • arash moshiri


  • John

    The quintessential corporate architect!

    • Eric in Colorado

      There is nothing “corporate” about IM Pei’s works. Each is glorious and singular to its site and program. Even his early corporate projects stand out on their own among the “corporate boxes” that have grown around them.

  • davies esther

    life is beautiful………………