Remembering I.M. Pei, Legendary Architect

While better known for his work on the Louvre Pyramid and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Pei also designed numerous commercial real estate properties around the globe.

Celebrated architect Ieoh Ming Pei—more commonly known as I.M. Pei—died on May 16th. He was 102 years old.

Born in 1917 in Guangzhou, China, Pei moved to the U.S. in 1935 to study architecture, starting at the University of Pennsylvania and later transferring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating, Pei joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he studied under Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius, pioneers of modernist architecture. 

At the beginning of his career, Pei worked closely with developer William Zeckendorf and fellow architects Ulrich Franzen and Henry Cobb, as the in-house architect of Webb & Knapp. Together, they adventured on multiple large-scale urban renewal projects in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., Boston, Denver, Montreal and other cities.

After seven years with Webb & Knapp in New York, Pei established his own architecture firm in 1955, known today as Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Throughout his more than 60-year career, he designed a number of notable modernist buildings around the world, including the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Commercial real estate work

But Pei also designed many commercial real estate properties. The many well-known buildings bearing his touch range from the iconic Miami Tower in downtown Miami to Atlanta’s Towers at Wildwood Plaza. In Pittsburgh, Pei worked on the 300-foot residential tower City View, delivered in 1964. Previously known as Washington Plaza, the 24-story building changed its name in 2014. In downtown Dallas, Pei designed the 30-story One Dallas Center, completed in 1978. His buildings are found across the world, including Singapore’s The Gateway and Hong Kong’s Bank of China tower, an integral part of the city’s skyline.

He retired in 1990, later consulting for a design firm founded by two of his four children, Pei Partnership Architects. During and following his career, Pei won numerous awards and accolades, including the Pritzker Prize. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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