IM Pei: 6 standout buildings

IM Pei: 6 standout buildings

The Gateway buildings in Singapore
The Gateway skyscraper complex, designed by IM Pei. (Photo: Nicole Chang)

PARIS: The sharp lines and geometric, light-filled forms of Chinese-American architect IM Pei's designs have created some of the landmarks of the world, including a few in Singapore.

Here is a selection of six.

READ: Architect IM Pei dies at age 102: Report

SINGAPORE: THE GATEWAY (1990)

The Gateway's twin towers located at the junction of Beach Road and Rochor Road were one of Pei's most iconic designs in Singapore.

Completed in 1990, the skyscraper complex is known for its sharp edges and striking angles. Its two parallelogram-shaped buildings are set opposite each other across a plaza.

The 37-storey office complex cost more than S$500 million according to a Straits Times article at the time. It was conceived as a symbolic gateway to Singapore's city centre, according to reports.

US: NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART (1978)

The East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, photographed in 2007
The East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, photographed in 2007. (Photo:  AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

A "study in triangles" is how Architecture Week magazine describes Pei's East Building addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

The concrete and glass structure features huge mirrored pyramids and a 15-metre waterfall.

The Washington Post wrote at its opening in 1978 that it was "an architectonic symphony of light and marble, color and glass, painting and sculpture."

"This building helped to shape attitudes to museum building throughout the United States in the 1970s and later," architect Dennis Sharp wrote in "Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History" (2006).

FRANCE: LOUVRE PYRAMID (1989)

Pei's addition of a giant glass pyramid to the courtyard of the historic Louvre palace, today the world's most visited museum, was highly controversial and hotly rejected by many in France.

It has since become celebrated as "a symbol of the modernity of the museum and an emblem of Paris across the world," Louvre president Jean-Luc Martinez said in 2017.

Opened to the public in 1989, the giant structure essentially provided a new entrance for the growing number of visitors.

I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid under construction in 1987 in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace
IM Pei's Louvre Pyramid under construction in 1987 in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris. (Photo: AFP/Patrick KOVARIK)

Pei's masterstroke was to link the three wings of the museum with vast underground galleries bathed in light streaming in through the glass and steel pyramid.

"Pei had imagined the hall under the pyramid as a space between the city and the collections, an interface between the outside and the works," Martinez said.

CHINA: BANK OF CHINA TOWER (1989)

The Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in 2013
The Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in 2013. (Photo: AFP/PHILIPPE LOPEZ)

This 367.4-metre skyscraper, which appears to be made up of triangles, is one of the tallest office buildings in Hong Kong and arguably one of the most striking on the skyline.

Its four shafts, clad in glass and aluminium, form a prism that reflects the sun and the movement of the sky.

"The diagonal cuts that generate the prism create a sequence of atrium spaces that flood the tower with natural light," says the website of Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, the firm from which Pei retired in 1990.

The 72-storey building was met with some controversy after claims that its sharp, triangular design exerts bad feng shui on surrounding structures.

JAPAN: MIHO MUSEUM (1997)

The Miho Museum in Japan
The Miho museum in Japan. (Photo: Facebook / MIHO MUSEUM)

Located on a mountainside in a nature preserve near the Japanese town of Shigaraki, near Kyoto, around 80 per cent of the Miho art museum is underground to preserve its scenic setting.

Visitors are led down a walkway enveloped by cherry trees and pass through an arching tunnel and over a suspension bridge before arriving at the collection of Asian and Western antiques.

Opened in 1997, the museum's glass roof is made up of geometric combinations of triangles.

"I think you can see a very conscious attempt on my part to make the silhouette of the building comfortable in the natural landscape," Pei is quoted as saying on the museum's website.

QATAR: MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART (2008)

The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha in 2007, before its inauguration
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha in 2007, before its inauguration AFP/KARIM JAAFAR

"Traditional Islamic architecture meets the 21st century," is the museum's description of the building which incorporates geometric patterns and is lit by reflected light entering from above.

Pei told The New York Times in 2008 that he wanted the museum to embody the "essence of Islamic architecture" and spent months travelling the region for inspiration.

"Islam was one religion I did not know," he said. "So I studied the life of Muhammad. I went to Egypt and Tunisia."

"The museum is an object," he said. "It should be treated as a piece of sculpture."

Source: AFP

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