Chinese-born American architect I. M. Pei, who is best known in Europe for his transformation of the Louvre in Paris, has been named today as the recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious architecture prizes, the Royal Gold Medal.
Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by the Queen of England and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.
I. M. Pei is one of the most prolific architects of all time having completed over 170 projects and more than 50 master plans. At the age of 92, he remains actively engaged in architecture. His work easily spans the divide between commercial and cultural architecture, and he is equally respected and sought after by clients in all fields.
Ieoh Ming Pei (always known as I. M.) is a Chinese American architect, born in China in 1917. He traveled to the United States in 1935 to study architecture, and never returned to live in his home country. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received a Masters degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he studied under Gropius and Breuer, coming under the influence of the International Style which was to inspire his work for almost 70 years. His first commission was for the noted planner-developer William Zeckendorf: the Miesian Mile High Center in Denver. He set up his own practice in 1955. His best known buildings are probably the National Center for Atmospheric Research Boulder, Colorado (1961-67), the East Wing of the National Gallery Washington DC (1968-78), the John F Kennedy Library, Boston (1965-79), the Bank of China, Hong Kong (1982-89), the Grand Louvre expansion and renovation (1983-93) and the Miho Museum in Shiga, Japan (1991-97). In recent years he has completed major museum projects in Luxembourg, China and Qatar. His only building in the UK is a private commission: a tiny pavilion in Wiltshire.
I. M. Pei has been honored by America, France, Germany, Japan and the UK where he is an Honorary Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts (1993). He has been awarded the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Medal for Architecture (1976); the American Institute of Architects – the Gold Medal (1979); the American Academy of Arts & Letters – Gold Medal for Architecture (1979); La Grande Médaille d’Or of l’Académie d’Architecture, France (1981), the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1983); the Praemium Imperiale for lifetime achievement in architecture, Japan (1989); Officier de La Légion d’Honneur, France (1993) and the Thomas Jefferson Medal for distinguished achievement in the arts, humanities, or social sciences (2001).
Speaking from New York, I. M. Pei said of the honour,
‘It is a great honor to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. I am humbled indeed to read the names of those who have preceded me as recipients. I look forward to attending the ceremony in February, and to thanking personally RIBA President Ruth Reed and the Honors Committee, and David Adjaye, who nominated me.’
I. M. Pei was nominated for the 2010 Royal Gold Medal by David Adjaye. His citation concludes with a personal tribute: ‘When I began my studies in architecture, I. M. Pei was already a giant in the cannon of greats. His work seemed effortlessly capable of creating extraordinary clarity out of complex and conflicting demands. His is an agile ability, working with Heads of State, Kings and Queens, “hard nosed” developers and non profit institutions, in each case creating revealing, extraordinary works of precision with quality and detail.
‘I remember as a young student first visiting the Louvre in Paris and marveling at its extraordinary ability to unify and modernize what was a much loved but disparate institution and behold its magnificent, gravity defying, glass pyramid. He became a role model for me as a young architect.’
RIBA President Ruth Reed, who chaired the Honors Committee which selects to Royal Gold medal winner said,
“Chairing the Honors Committee was my very first duty as President and it was an honor for me too. The Royal Gold Medal is a most auspicious award and we have chosen in I. M. Pei a very special winner. He is one of the greats of 20th – and 21st – century architecture; a man whose work I have always admired. A list of his influences and those he has influenced reads like a roll-call of the Modern Movement. Seldom has such a reward been so overdue or so just.”
I. M. Pei will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal on February 11, 2010 at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, when the 2010 RIBA International and Honorary Fellowships will also be presented.
The Royal Gold Medal was inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1848 and is conferred annually by the Sovereign on ‘some distinguished architect for work or high merit, or on some distinguished person whose work has promoted either directly or indirectly the advancement of architecture.’
Previous winners have included Sir Charles Barry, Sir George Gilbert Scott, Alfred Waterhouse, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Charles Voysey, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Kenzo Tange, Ove Arup, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Louis Kahn, James Stirling, Berthold Lubetkin, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito and Alvaro Siza.
This year’s RIBA Honors Committee was chaired by the President of the RIBA, Ruth Reed with David Adjaye OBE, architect, Adjaye Associates; Edward Cullinan CBE, architect, Edward Cullinan Architects; Max Fordham, Environmental Engineer, Max Fordham Partnership; Anne Lacaton, architect, Lacaton & Vassal (Paris); and Laura Lee, Client, Maggie’s.