Renowned architect I.M. Pei died at the age of 102 on May 16, 2019, but his legacy will live on through his staggering catalog of work, including commercial buildings all over the world.
Although his style changed over the years, some of Pei’s best-known designs recognized the importance of daylighting through the incorporation of glass, to striking effect – including these four world-famous examples.
1 – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Located on the shores of Lake Erie, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognizes and archives the history of famous and influential musical artists, producers, engineers and other notables. While the Hall of Fame was established in 1983, ground didn’t break on the famous Pei-designed building for another decade.
Intended to convey the energy of rock and roll, the building combines geometric forms and cantilevered spaces anchored by a 162-foot tower. The tower – originally intended to stand 200 feet, but reduced during the design process due to its location near the airport – supports a dual-triangular-shaped glass “tent” that extends at its base onto a 65,000-square-foot plaza that provides a main entry facade. The building’s base is approximately 150,000 square feet.
2 – Suzhou Museum, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China
Built in 2006 and said to be the last design of Pei’s career, the Suzhou Museum houses ancient Chinese art; ancient Chinese paintings; calligraphy; and handmade crafts.
The design uses traditional Suzhou architectural styles, with the museum between courtyards to connect the building with its surrounding environment. Design elements like water and landscape views, glass and metal, geometric configurations, and black and white features combine to create a dramatic statement, bridging traditional and modern Chinese architecture.
3 – Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong
One of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Hong Kong, the tower houses the headquarters of the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited. From 1989 to 1992, it was the tallest building in Hong Kong, and was the first skyscraper outside the United States to rise above 1,000 feet.
Pei designed the structure to mimic sprouting bamboo shoots, but the building was originally somewhat controversial; critics felt its asymmetrical geometric patterns were at odds with the ancient practice of feng shui, which emphasizes buildings’ harmony and cohesion with their surroundings. Now, the building is an iconic part of the Hong Kong skyline.
Four steel columns at the corners of the building support the structure, with the triangular frameworks transferring the weight of the structure onto these four columns. The building is covered with glass curtain walls.
4 – The Louvre Pyramid, Paris
Serving as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum, the Louvre Pyramid is a large glass-and-metal pyramid, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace.
Designed in 1984, it – like Pei’s Bank of China Tower – also was initially the subject of much controversy: Some French citizens felt its look was too modern for such an important, long-lasting symbol of their culture; others felt Pei wasn’t “French enough.”
However, since its completion in 1989, it has become a notable Paris landmark. The structure – constructed entirely with glass segments and metal poles – is 71 feet high, with a 112-foot square base. It consists of 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments.
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