Internationally acclaimed architect I.M. Pei has selected the Library as the major repository for his personal and professional papers. One of the world's most celebrated architects, Mr. Pei has designed such outstanding buildings as the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington (1978), the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong (1989) and the Grand Louvre in Paris (1989, 1993). Over the past half century, Mr. Pei and his partners have executed more than 150 award-winning projects across the United States and around the world.
In making the announcement, Dr. Billington said: "We are delighted with the donation of this significant body of work, which documents the creation of some of the most distinguished buildings of the late 20th century and the life and times of the gifted architect who designed them. The Pei papers and drawings will join those of Benjamin Latrobe, Charles Follen McKim, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Raymond Loewy and others in comprising one of the richest repositories in the world for the study of 19th and 20th century architecture, design and engineering."
With his documents relating to the National Gallery of Art previously assigned to that museum's archives, I.M. Pei said he was "very pleased that Washington, D.C., will become the center for research about my work when the major part of the collection is received and arranged at the Library of Congress over the next few years. It was in Washington, after all, where I met my first major architectural challenge," referring to the unique site problems of the National Gallery project.
His career is studded with prestigious awards: the Arnold Brunner Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1961), the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Medal for Architecture (1976), the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects (1979), La Grande Medaille d'Or from the French Academy of Architecture (1981), the Pritzker Architecture Prize -- generally considered the architecture equivalent of the Nobel Prize -- (1983), the Medal of Liberty -- for outstanding contributions to American life by a foreign-born United States citizen -- (1986), the National Medal of Art (1988) and the Japanese Praemium Imperiale (1989).
Ieoh Ming Pei was born in pre-Communist China in 1917, living in Hong Kong and Shanghai. In 1935 he journeyed to the United States for his education but, because of political changes in China, he did not return. Mr. Pei received his B.Arch. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940. He went on to study with the influential architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He received his M.Arch. in 1946, and became an instructor and assistant professor in 1945-48.
In 1948, Mr. Pei was hired by the prominent New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf and spent the next 10 years redeveloping cities across the country. He became a United States citizen in 1955 and established an independent architectural firm in 1958. For more than three decades the firm of I.M. Pei & Associates, then I.M. Pei & Partners -- a coalition that included the distinguished architects Henry N. Cobb and James Ingo Freed, and many other leading practitioners, as well as two of Mr. Pei's sons -- established high standards of craftsmanship, technical expertise and architectural excellence across the world.
Mr. Pei came to national prominence in 1964 when Jacqueline Kennedy selected him to design the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Several years later, he was awarded the commission for the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, which was subsequently chosen one of the 10 Best Buildings in America by the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. In 1979, Mr. Pei began Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing, the first major building undertaken in post-Maoist China. In 1989 he completed such significant buildings as the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the 70-story Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, and the first phase of the Grand Louvre in Paris. The second and final phase of the Grand Louvre was completed in 1993. In 1995, at age 78, Mr. Pei completed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
I.M. Pei & Partners was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989, and although he retired from the firm in 1990, Mr. Pei remains very active professionally. Current works include the Miho Museum in Shiga, Japan, the Musée d'Art Moderne in Luxembourg, the Goulandris Museum in Athens, and the new Schauhaus addition to the German Historical Museum in Berlin.
I.M. Pei is recognized for the careful siting and massing of his buildings, their rich contrasts of external forms and materials, the bold modeling and beauty of their interior spaces, and their exquisite details. His style often features trademark geometrical shapes, the use of natural light and a primary concern for the people who use his structures. He designed, for example, the Garden Court of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art as a "public indoor piazza." His redesign of the Louvre has drawn to it a steady stream of people, young and old, from all over the world.
A minor grouping of the Pei documents arrived at the Library in 1996. The majority of the papers, photographs and drawings are expected to arrive in several increments over the next few years, after which they will be arranged and described. An announcement will be made when the materials are available in the Library's Manuscript and Prints and Photographs divisions.