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Finding Inspiration in Community Architecture: Exploring the Works of I.M. Pei

SHP

Architectural legend, Leoh Ming Pei (I.M. Pei), passed away on May 16, 2019, at the age of 102. Pei was a trailblazer in the design of public spaces, and has inspired architects around the globe; those of us at SHP included. His works included museums, libraries, workplaces and civic centers and his perspective melding beauty, form and function has made a lasting impact.  As a creator and leader, we wanted to highlight works of his that continue to inspire us.

 

Dallas City Hall 

Dallas City Hall public space designed by I.M. Pei

The idea for a new city hall came when the city of Dallas became known as the “City of Hate” after the 1963 assignation of President John F. Kennedy. I.M. Pei took the project to heart, “when you do a city hall, it has to convey an image of the people, and this had to represent the people of Dallas … The people I met—rich and poor, powerful and not so powerful—were all very proud of their city. They felt that Dallas was the greatest city there was, and I could not disappoint them.” Completed in 1977, Pei followed through on his word and the innovative building remains as one of the most iconic buildings in Dallas.  

(Photo Credit: Kevin Wang under Creative Commons license.)

 

JFK Presidential Library and Museum  

I.M. Pei designed civic spaces like JFK Library

In 1964, Pei was chosen as the architect for this project even though he was relatively unknown at the time. Mrs. Kennedy decided to choose Pei because he was born the same year as John F. Kennedy and “he was so full of promise.” After many years of red tape and delay, the structure was finally finished in 1979. Pei commented on the project saying it was one of the most important commissions of his life.  

(Photo by Fcb981 under GDFL license.)

Miho Museum 

public museum education designed by architect IM Pei

The Miho Museum was a unique project for Pei due to the landscape the structure was to be built upon. Wanting to keep the aesthetic intact Pei said, “I think you can see a very conscious attempt on my part to make the silhouette of the building comfortable in the natural landscape.” To keep the integrity of the space and land—a concept we practice today—Pei continued to change the layout of the building as more art was added to the museum’s collection.  

(Photo by John Weiss under Creative Commons license.)

Bank of China Tower 

The Bank of China Tower is one of Pei’s more notable works due to its impressive height and unique shape. With construction starting in 1985, there was some controversy around the building’s design. The building was not feng shui and highly criticized due to its sharp edges. The design earned the nickname “one knife.”  

(Photo by Bernard Spragg, public domain.)

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