The Story and Legacy of Famous Architect I.M. Pei

One of I.M. Pei's most famous projects the Pyramide du Louvre

Cultural fluidity is now more prominent within modern society as people use their unique experiences to inspire their work, and no one shows this more than the architect, I.M. Pei.  

Pei is a Chinese American architect famous for the design of the Pyramide du Louvre located at the Louvre Museum in Paris. What a lot do not know is Pei is an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK). He experienced many key moments that could be argued, developed his creative side. 

Early Influences

Being born in Suzhou, China, moving between Hong Kong, Shanghai and finally the United States. One could say he experienced a lot of cultural shifts throughout his life. 

Early on in his life, Pei began to form his creative side which — was the opposite to his father’s wishes. 

Pei said his father was “not cultivated in the way of the arts.” He continued, “I have cultivated myself.”  

With the family’s move to Hong Kong, he said this was where he developed his interest in buildings and architecture. 

“I couldn’t resist looking into the hole,” Pei said in 2007. “That’s when I knew I wanted to build.” 

A change in style

Despite this early interest, it wasn’t until the completion high school that his passion really evolved into a career. Pei started at the University of Pennsylvania but quickly moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Pei did not realize the Greek influence that United States universities taught with and was more interested in modern architecture.  

“I certainly don’t regret the time at MIT,” Pei later said. “There I learned the science and technique of building…” 

I.M. Pei sitting in front of his most famous project Pyramide du Louvre in Paris, France
I.M. Pei sitting in front of the famed Pyramide du Louvre in Paris, France. March 29, 1989 (Photo by: Bernard Bisson/Sygma) Bernard Bisson – Sygma via Getty Images

Pei’s unique outlook was not affected and was able to change the way buildings and architecture is made in modern society. It is quite evident in his work today that he did advance modern architecture. He is also responsible for the inspiration behind many of the modern sculptures and buildings.  

A representation of his life

The most notable example of his modern styled work must be the Pyramide du Louvre at the Louvre museum in Paric, France. This piece of work is a glass pyramid situated in the Cour Napoleon in the center of the Louvre museum. 

Because of its obvious contrast to the historical building surrounding, it there was significant backlash at first to the design and look of the pyramid. 

“I came from a country with a long history,” Pei said. “And I would not take this problem lightly.” 

The inspiration behind the Pyramide du Louvre is that it is a modern twist on historical architecture, but, there is also a sense of Pei’s personality within the project.  

As is apparent throughout his work there is an obvious difference between the buildings Pei has designed and the surrounding buildings. They look simplistic, they look modern, and they create a sense of sensationalism. 

This trend is looked at as Pei voicing his differences with his surroundings. As an ATCK he has moved around and had to adjust to different cultures many times. This has shown through his work with the projects not conforming to any specific culture but rather conforming to the experiences and feelings that Pei has been through in his formative years and beyond.  

An experience unique to him and one many others can relate to. And as the world continues to globalize more people like Pei are beginning to show these experiences through their work. Something that Pei was almost a pioneer of. 


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