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Monday, March 1, 2010

I.M. Pei: Last of the Lions

At 92, the architect I.M. Pei has lived long enough to see his major works – the Louvre pyramids, National Gallery east wing, the John Hancock tower in Boston, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to name but a few – receive plaudits, then brickbats, then regain favor once more.

The Louvre courtyard with Pei's pyramids

Pei studied architecture in the late 1930s and early 1949s at MIT and Harvard with two other 20th Century giants,  Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

He and 102-year-old Oscar Niemayer possibly are the last two living links to the Bauhaus and its indelible influence on modern design.

National Center for Atmospheric Research at Boulder, CO

"For a self-styled 'western architect,' and one closely associated with the corporate end, Pei’s most elegant buildings have arguably been his two post-retirement, non-western projects," writes Edwin Heathcote in this weekend's Financial Times.

The buildings in question are The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha on the Arabian Gulf and a much admired melding of eastern and western forms at the museum in Suzhou, in Pei’s native China.

The Doha museum opened in 2008 to widespread praise. "The museum’s colossal geometric form has an ageless quality, evoking a past when Islamic art and architecture were a nexus of world culture," said the New York Times. "At the same time it conveys a hope for reconnecting again."

Opening of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Earlier this month, Pei was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Gold Medal. On that occasion, The FT's Heathcote interviewed the modernist master, still lively and dapper in his ninth decade.

The full text is here.

Louvre photo by photoeverywhere.co.uk

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