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."
Today, April 26th 2017, marks I.M. Pei’s 100th birthday. The occasion offers a wonderful opportunity to take a retrospective look at one of the most significant and productive architects of the past 100 years, with many organizations hosting events, celebrations, and symposiums to talk about Master Pei and his notable projects. However at these events, just as throughout I.M. Pei’s career, there is unlikely to be much intellectual conversation about Pei’s architectural legacy. The main discussion around I.M. Pei is still focused on his design talent and intriguing narratives about the charisma he used to convince clients to continue through tough projects.
Though I.M. Pei himself has never talked at length about his design theory or the intellectual basis of his projects, these simple narratives leave certain questions unanswered: Where does I.M. Pei’s inspiration for architectural form come from? How did his architectural design affect his peer group of architects and artists, and contribute intellectually to the contemporary art world?
If you were a Greek tourist in the 1st century BCE you would likely have had something in your hand that would be quite familiar here in the 21st century. A guide book. The most popular guide book of the Hellenic world listed seven wonders of the world that should be visited by any Greek traveler.
Of those seven wonders, six no longer exist. The Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus were lost to natural causes, the Temple of Artemis and Statue of Zues destroyed by human hands, and no one knows what happened to the Hanging Gardens. The remaining wonder is the Great Pyramid of Giza. This colossal Egyptian structure is so grand a work that even today, 4,500 years after its construction, it is still considered by some to be the most impressive civil engineering project in history, beating out feats like the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The pyramid isn’t just an ancient wonder. Just as the Great Pyramid has managed to survive into modern times, so has our love affair with the simple but powerful angled shape. Modern architects and engineers continue to build pyramids. These modern pyramids may not be stone tombs to ancient pharaohs, but are no less stunning for all that. Read on after the break for six examples.
ArchitectMies van der Rohe