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9 Questions

What was Ieoh Ming Pei's inspiration for his architectural designs?

Which school did Ieoh Ming Pei transfer to after enrolling in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school?

What was Ieoh Ming Pei's first major recognition in the field of architecture?

Which building did Ieoh Ming Pei design in Dallas that took 11 years to complete?

What was Ieoh Ming Pei's most famous work?

Which building did Ieoh Ming Pei design in Boston that became the tallest building in New England?

Which building did Ieoh Ming Pei design for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.?

What was Ieoh Ming Pei's style described as?

What was Ieoh Ming Pei's legacy in the field of architecture and design?


Ieoh Ming Pei was a Chinese-American architect born in 1917. Pei was raised in Shanghai and was inspired by the garden villas at Suzhou. He moved to the United States in 1935 and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school, but he quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pei was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and became a friend of the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zeckendorf, for whom he worked for seven years before establishing an independent design firm in 1955, I. M. Pei & Associates. Pei's first major recognition came with the Mesa Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. Pei won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of architecture, including the AIA Gold Medal in 1979, the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in 2003. In 1983, he won the Pritzker Prize. Pei's ancestors' success meant that the family lived in the upper echelons of society. Pei studied in St. Paul's College in Hong Kong as a child. Pei's choice had two roots: the University of Pennsylvania's architecture program stood out to him, and he was fascinated by the representations of college life in the films of Bing Crosby. Pei was inspired by the innovative designs of the new International Style, characterized by simplified form and the use of glass and steel materials. Pei excelled in his studies and received his BArch degree in 1940. In the spring of 1948, Pei was recruited by New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf to join a staff of architects for his firm of Webb and Knapp to design buildings around the country. Pei's designs echoed the work of Mies van der Rohe in the beginning of his career.I.M. Pei's Architectural Projects

  • Pei was part of the team responsible for designing the North Building, South Building, East Building, and Center Building of L'Enfant Plaza in Washington D.C.

  • In 1955, Pei and his team established a new firm called I.M. Pei & Associates, and they gained the freedom to work with other companies, but continued working primarily with Zeckendorf.

  • Pei's firm designed the Kips Bay residential area on the East Side of Manhattan, where Pei set up Kips Bay Towers, two large long towers of apartments with recessed windows.

  • Pei designed the Society Hill Towers, a three-building residential block injecting cubist design into the 18th-century milieu of the neighborhood in central Philadelphia.

  • Pei and Ray Affleck developed a key downtown block of Montreal, including the cruciform tower known as the Royal Bank Plaza (Place Ville Marie) from 1958 to 1963.

  • Pei was approached in 1961 by Walter Orr Roberts to design the new Mesa Laboratory for the National Center for Atmospheric Research outside Boulder, Colorado.

  • Pei designed the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the Sundrome terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, and dormitories at New College of Florida.

  • Kennedy chose Pei to design the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which was plagued with problems from the outset and moved to Columbia Point, near the University of Massachusetts Boston.

  • Pei designed Cathedral Square in Providence, Rhode Island, which ran out of money before Pei's vision could be fully realized.

  • In 1974, the city of Augusta, Georgia turned to Pei and his firm for downtown revitalization and Pei designed the Augusta Civic Center, now known as the James Brown Arena.

  • Pei designed the distinctive modern penthouse that was added to the roof of architect William Lee Stoddart's historic Lamar Building in Augusta, Georgia.

  • Pei developed a design centered on a building with a top much wider than the bottom for the Dallas City Hall, which took 11 years to complete.

  • Pei's relative lack of experience left him without the necessary design tools to refine his vision of the Dallas City Hall, but the community liked it enough to invite him back to design five additional buildings in the Dallas area.I.M. Pei: Major Architectural Projects

  • Pei was hired to design the Hancock Tower in Boston, which became the tallest building in New England when it was completed in 1976.

  • Issues with the tower's execution arose almost immediately, with many glass panels fracturing during construction in 1973, leading to increased costs and legal battles.

  • Pei's firm faced difficulties after the Hancock Tower project, with architects seeking opportunities overseas, but Pei reflected on the experience as a way to toughen the firm and cement their partnership.

  • Pei was commissioned to design a new building for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., which included a large lobby roofed with enormous skylights and individual galleries located along the periphery.

  • The East Building of the National Gallery was honored with a black-tie party attended by celebrities, politicians, and artists before its public unveiling, and received generally positive reviews from critics.

  • Pei was asked to initiate a project in China and designed the Fragrant Hill Hotel, which was designed to fit perfectly into its natural habitat and included a large central atrium and openings of various shapes in walls to view the natural scenery beyond.

  • The Fragrant Hill Hotel opened in 1982 but quickly fell into disrepair due to the country's general unfamiliarity with deluxe buildings.

  • Pei worked on the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, which was plagued by budget problems and construction blunders.

  • Pei was commissioned to renovate the Louvre in Paris, which included a central entrance, a glass and steel pyramid at the center of the courtyard, and additional floors for research, storage, and maintenance purposes.

  • The renovation displeased some Louvre administrators, sections of the French public, and critics, but won the support of several key cultural icons and eased opposition after a full-sized cable model of the pyramid was placed in the courtyard.

  • Pei demanded a method of glass production that resulted in clear panes for the pyramid, which was constructed at the same time as the subterranean levels below, and construction teams came upon an abandoned set of rooms containing 25,000 historical items that were incorporated into the rest of the structure to add a new exhibition zone.I.M. Pei, one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th century, passed away in May 2019 at the age of 102. He was known for combining traditional architectural principles with progressive designs based on simple geometric patterns. Pei's most famous works include the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. He also designed museums such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Musée d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg, the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. Pei's style was described as thoroughly modernist, with significant cubist themes. He was also known for his ability to combine aesthetics with functionality, acoustics, and site-specificity. Pei's successful career spanned over 70 years, and he continued to work on projects well into his 90s. His legacy continues to influence contemporary architecture and design.


Test your knowledge on the life and work of I.M. Pei, one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th century. From his early education to his major architectural projects, this quiz will challenge you to recall the details of Pei's innovative designs and his legacy in the field of architecture. See how much you know about Pei's most famous works, such as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, and the Meyerson Symphony Center in

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