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I.M. Pei
Text by Michael Calderone
Photography Stephen Ladner


Of course, I.M. Pei, who recently turned 91 years old, is a living legend in the field of architecture, with numerous accomplishments, including the National Gallery of Art-East Wing in Washington, DC; the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong; the Four Seasons Hotel in New York; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; and the Louvre’s famed glass pyramid in Paris. When his reputation was only growing, Jacqueline Kennedy hand selected him to design the Kennedy Library, following a competition that included far more well known names in the field, such as Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Bunshaft, and Philip Johnson. Pei’s storied career throughout the second half of the 20th century (and beyond!) is as fascinating as his creative mind. Hailing from a family of means, Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Canton, China, in 1917, as the son of an executive at the Bank of China. Pei had the opportunity to study abroad and at 17 years old left for the United States. Here, he received a bachelor’s degree in architecture at MIT, and proceeded to Harvard for graduate school, studying under Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. In 1948, I.M. began working for legendary William Zeckendorf as the director of architecture for his real estate development company. The following decade, he formed I.M. Pei & Associates (later I.M. Pei & Partners) and would go on to design impressive structures throughout the world. Over the years, the Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect designed schools, hospitals, museums, and skyscrapers. Later, with his son, Li Chung “Sandi,” he designed the stunning Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. Although retired from the firm he founded since 1990, I.M. Pei remains quite active and is listed as the design principal of the Museum of Islamic Art, in addition to keeping it in the family by working with Pei Partnership Architects on the Macao Science Center.