architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
on april 26th architect i.m. pei celebrated his 96th birthday. considered by many the ‘master of contemporary architecture’, pei’s vibrant story has no doubt influenced his timeless masterpieces and those who inhabit them. from growing up in china to continuing his higher education in the united states following a childhood admiration of bing crosby, the eclectic mix of cultures and experiences that formed his architectural career led him to be the recipient of some of the highest honors in the field including the pritzker (1983), AIA gold medal (1979), and the RIBA royal gold medal (2010) to name a few. his poetic oeuvre consists of works extending to all scales and materials, located in numerous countries around the world.

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘NCAR’ boulder, colorado
image courtesy of UCAR | main image courtesy of jfk library



the national center for atmospheric research in boulder colorado was perhaps the first project completed in his own firm, pei cobb freed and partners, to gain him widespread recognition. a physical translation of the natural site, the cubist concrete structure looks as if to be erected directly from the red-tinged soil that hosts it. shortly after he was appointed to design the john f. kennedy library which he considered to be ‘the most important commission’ of his life, and was never quite satisfied with the compromises throughout the process and final result of the project. in the mid 1960’s he completed the ‘national gallery east building’ in washington dc. exhibition spaces are organized around a large triangular central atrium covered in skylights that lend to his characteristic geometric designs. the building was lauded by the general public and became one of his most characteristic pieces.

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘john f kennedy library’ dallas, texas
image courtesy of JFK library

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘national gallery east building’
image courtesy of bluffton



a small blemish with the hancock tower construction in 1973, pei looked abroad for commissions. he returned to china in 1972 for the first time after almost 50 years and began the designs for the fragrant hills hotel. he was met with the reality of chinese construction methods and technological inefficiencies of the time and a young generation of critics who expected something more along the lines of the postmodern architecture being broadcast internationally. the project turned into a professional and personal hardship, being declared a dilapidated structure by his associate who visited just a few years later. soon thereafter he erected the bank of china skyscraper in hong kong which again received international attention; but perhaps his most notable structure of the 80’s was the iconic louvre pyramid in the historical parisian museum, for which he was the first foreign architect to realize any designs. 

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘fragrant hills hotel’
image © preston moore / pei cobb freed and partners

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘louvre pyramid phase I’ paris, france
image courtesy of aflouvre

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
bank of china tower, hong kong
image © rajan rai



today, pei cobb freed and partners continue to realize important commissions around the world. he has recently opened the ‘museum of islamic arts’ in qatar, the universidad europea de madrid campus in spain, the ‘miles and shirly fiterman hall’ in new york, and the ‘nascar hall of fame’ amongst many other internatinal projects.

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘museum of islamic arts’, see designboom’s original article here
image courtesy of pcf-partners

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘miles and shirly fiterman hall’ new york
image © erik torkells, courtesy of pcf-partners

architect I.M. pei celebrates 96th birthday
‘nascar hall of fame’, charlotte, north carolina
image © paul warchol



see project list
see curriculum vitae
see full biography