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Thread: I.M. Pei, Architect of Some of the World's Most Iconic Structures, Dies at 102

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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    Default I.M. Pei, Architect of Some of the World's Most Iconic Structures, Dies at 102

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    I.M. Pei, Architect Of Some Of The World's Most Iconic Structures, Dies At 102
    May 16, 20196:46 PM ET

    Heard on All Things Considered


    TED ROBBINS

    EDWARD LIFSON


    Architect I.M. Pei stands in front of the Louvre museum's glass pyramid in Paris, just before the structure's inauguration in March 1989.
    Pierre Gleizes/AP


    Crowds around the world flow through the buildings designed by architect I.M. Pei; in Paris, they stream into the Louvre's Pyramid entrance. In Cleveland, they wander through the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And in Hong Kong, they travel up and down the soaring Bank of China Tower.

    Pei's death was confirmed by Thomas Guss, his press contact. He was 102.

    His designs were widely praised — but not always at first. When his large glass pyramid opened at the entrance to the Louvre museum in 1988, it was not well received.


    "I would say the first year and a half was really hell," the architect said in a PBS documentary. "I couldn't walk the streets of Paris without people walking looking at me and saying, There you go again. What are you doing here? What are you doing to us? What are you doing to our great Louvre?"


    Two decades passed and, in 2009, NPR's Susan Stamberg paid a visit to the Pyramid. Henri Loyrette, the Louvre's director at the time, called it a masterpiece. He said that when you ask visitors why they are at the Louvre, they generally give three answers: for the Mona Lisa, for the Venus de Milo and for the Pyramid. It was not the first time shock has given way to admiration in architecture.







    • John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images



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    Pei didn't like labels. He said there's no such thing as modern, postmodern or deconstructivist architecture. But he was considered a modernist. Back in 1970, he defined his approach in an interview for a documentary on one of his buildings — the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

    "If the problem is a complicated problem, then the building will result just that way," Pei said. "But then after that we have to simplify it. We have to eliminate the inessential."

    That is pretty much the definition of modernism in architecture — eliminate the inessential, leaving clean lines and spare geometric forms. But, he said, his architecture was not just geometry.

    There are many other elements that come into play to create a form," said Pei. "Space, which is what architecture really is. You have to have light. ... Light is terribly important."

    What are shapes without light, he asked — and added, "The light of the sun is magical."



    The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located on the shores of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland.


    Mark Duncan/AP


    Pei was born in Suzhou, China, in 1917. He grew up in a house where gardens and airy pavilions merged with the landscape. Pei biographer Carter Wiseman says that the natural worlddeeply influenced Pei.

    "Having come from China, where he was exposed to garden architecture, he had a very different concept of time," Wiseman explains. "He was interested in the sculptural properties of rocks. There was an affinity for nature and for history that most Americans do not get, no matter how hard we try."

    Pei's father was a banker, his mother an artist. He came to the U.S. as a teenager in 1935, went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was influenced by the work of pioneering modernists Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Pei's privileged upbringing helped him navigate the alpha-male world of architecture and real estate. He was able to schmooze with the powerful, which led to projects like the apartments on Manhattan's East Side called the Kips Bay Towers, the Kennedy Library in Boston and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

    Pei didn't get everything right. His 1980s design for New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, for instance, is still less than loved.

    His Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing, completed in 1982, uses a traditional Chinese design. In 1990, the Bank of China Tower opened — and his modern, soaring design instantly became one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Hong Kong.



    Completed in 1990, the Bank of China Tower is among the tallest skyscrapers in Hong Kong.
    Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images


    Pei inspired younger Chinese architects, like Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Wang Shu; he says Pei "awakened" him. Wang believes Pei figured out a way to bridge East and West, old and new, and he thinks of Pei as a teacher — someone who came before him and whose successes and mistakes he learned from.

    From the Macao Science Center to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, Pei continued building through 2009. His name, I.M., stands for Ieoh Ming, which means, roughly, "to make an indelible mark."



    The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, opened to the public in 2008.
    Hassan Ammar/AP

    https://www.npr.org/2019/05/16/37569...es-dies-at-102
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    Wow! He was 102? He almost beat another genius architect, oscar Niemeyer, who was 104 when he died. I adore Pei, the east wing of the national gallery in DC is my favourite museum here not just because of what’s in it, the building itself is wonderful. And I think the Louvre pyramid is magical though I know there are still people out there who don’t like it. Pei knew how to both keep it simple and make a huge statement. The east building of the national gallery, with its stark angles and clean lines, stands out among the sea of boring neo classical DC buildings and is one of the few examples of truly daring architecture in this city.
    Last edited by sputnik; May 17th, 2019 at 02:22 PM.
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    I had no idea I M Pei had lived that long, either. Below is a photograph I took when the kids and I were in the East Wing just a few weeks ago. You can see a mobile by the equally brilliant Alexander Calder hanging from the ceiling. I think my only knock on this building is that it is not easy to get around in to see the exhibits -- the exhibit layout is pretty funky and diffuse.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i love that atrium and the calder is one of my favourite pieces (and he's one of my favourite artists). i don't mind the funky layout because it's full of unexpected spaces. i'm also a huge fan of leo villareal's moving light tunnel connecting the east wing with the main/old national gallery.

    Last edited by sputnik; May 17th, 2019 at 02:21 PM.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    You read my mind. I have a video of that Villareal area - hopefully, I can post it in a bit. Our daughter was getting a little miffed with all the walking, but I promised her there would be amazing food waiting for her when we got to the restaurant that is in the Cascade Cafe. I think what we did was go to the National Gallery of Art, ate at the cafe and then did the East Wing building. I have to admit, after all these years, there were exhibit areas in the East Wing that I didn't know about until this last trip.
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    Elite Member dolem's Avatar
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    You guys are making me want to visit DC again.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    pro tip: don't visit in summer (which in DC means may to about late october). it's muggy as shit and full of hordes of organised tours in matching t-shirts and, increasingly, MAGA shirts and hats.
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    Elite Member stella blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    pro tip: don't visit in summer (which in DC means may to about late october). it's muggy as shit and full of hordes of organised tours in matching t-shirts and, increasingly, MAGA shirts and hats.
    im guessing the maga crowd doesn’t do much museum-ing though.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stella blue View Post
    im guessing the maga crowd doesn’t do much museum-ing though.
    They like Air and Space, Natural History, and American History. You are always safe at an art museum
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    Elite Member dolem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    pro tip: don't visit in summer (which in DC means may to about late october). it's muggy as shit and full of hordes of organised tours in matching t-shirts and, increasingly, MAGA shirts and hats.
    The last time I visited DC I was 23 and went to see my friend in August (WTF was I thinking??). I come from the PacNW, I've never experienced humidity like that before. I was young and brought all sorts of cute clothes and shoes with me...my sad feet swelled up from the heat and I had to wear my one ugly pair of flip flops the whole week because my fat feet didn't fit into anything else.
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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    It's been a long time since I've been to DC, and it was pre-MAGA, but one of the times I was there, it was July and it was hot and humid (which I was more or less used to, but it was still icky even for me and I love hot weather). What got me was that it seems like everything is uphill, at least in Arlington. Everyone who lives there must have calves of steel.
    "AND WHEN YOU BECAME DENISE, I TOLD ALL YOUR COLLEAGUES, THOSE CLOWN COMICS, TO FIX THEIR HEARTS OR DIE."

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    It's interesting to hear non-DC people's take on the climate here. It doesn't bother me much at all. If I am down on the Mall, I'm probably wearing a baseball cap, t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. That by itself cuts a lot of the heat. I will always have water in my backpack, too.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that you should plan your walking route in advance. There are 11 museums on the Mall, and this does not count the memorials and other landmarks. For museums, you can walk as little as 100-200 yards before you get from one air conditioned museum to another. That keeps you from being outside too long if you know what you are doing.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    Mo, I think you’re a lizard, that’s the only explanation I can think of. Living here in summer is fucking disgusting. Not just the heat and humidity but I feel gross and moist 90% of the time for about 5 months of the year.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    Mo, I think youíre a lizard, thatís the only explanation I can think of. Living here in summer is fucking disgusting. Not just the heat and humidity but I feel gross and moist 90% of the time for about 5 months of the year.
    There may be some truth to that. I have an ultra-wide comfort zone for temperature. I think the only place I'd ever been that was absolutely brutal was St. Martin in late June/early July. I thought I was going to spontaneously combust there.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    it's too humid to spontaneously combust in dc. i think you're more in danger of disintegrating into a pool of boiling hot swamp ooze. i was more comfortable in the desert in california last summer even though it was much hotter in terms of temperature.
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