Most architects hope to add to the character of a city, but Ieoh Ming Pei, one of the world’s best-known architects, changed many cities around the world with his iconic designs. The JFK Presidential Library in Boston, US (1979), the Louvre Pyramid in Paris (1989), the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong (1990) and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar (2008), are just a few of his many creations.
The man behind these landmark buildings died on May 16, at age 102. US author and critic Paul Goldberger called Pei’s death “the end of an architectural era” on the Instagram social network. “... A sad moment, but a career – and a life – worthy of celebration,” he wrote.
Pei once noted that a typical style of design “is of no help to an architect”. Instead, he was known for his eclectic style, bringing together seemingly opposite ideas into each design – East and West, ancient and modern, natural and manmade.
贝聿铭曾指出，一贯的设计风格“无益于建筑师”。恰恰相反，贝聿铭以兼收并蓄的风格著称，他在每一处的设计中都将看似对立的概念结合在一起 —— 东方与西方、古代与现代、自然与人造。
This may come from his upbringing. Born and raised in China, he went to the US to study architecture at 18. He studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then completed his Master of Arts study at Harvard. “I’ve never left China,” the Chinese-American Pei once told the Financial Times. “My family’s been there for 600 years.”
Pei tried to include local and historical ideas in his designs. When designing the Suzhou Museum in the 2000s, he took inspiration from the city’s delicate classical gardens. Instead of building a giant to overshadow them, Pei built small halls with traditional white walls and dark roofs, in the style of other gardens. The glass skylights and straight lines of the roof add a modern flair to the museum.
Besides matching his designs to the local surroundings, Pei also thought that light was a key factor to creating a lively atmosphere. He cared a lot about the sunlight in his designs. “Good architecture lets nature in,” he told People magazine.
The glass pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris is a good example. It doesn’t hide the buildings around it. Instead, it reflects them in the sunlight. It also serves as a huge window, letting sunlight into the museum. Today, many people visit the Louvre and take photos of the pyramid.
Essentially, Pei regarded himself as a pragmatic artist. What he valued most in architecture, he said, was that the buildings could “stand the test of time”. As The New York Times sums up, he didn’t just want to solve problems but also to produce “an architecture of ideas”.
(Translator & Editor: Wang Xingwei AND Ji Yuan)