Skip to content
CityLab
Design

How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.
The idea for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was hatched in the mid-1980s, a time when Cleveland really needed a win. And an I. M. Pei-designed waterfront attraction, complete with one of the architect’s signature glass “tents,” looked like just the economic-development ticket.
The idea for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was hatched in the mid-1980s, a time when Cleveland really needed a win. And an I. M. Pei-designed waterfront attraction, complete with one of the architect’s signature glass “tents,” looked like just the economic-development ticket.Mark Duncan/AP

I. M. Pei died Thursday at the age of 102 after a long career as an architect of great renown. Most known for his glass pyramid addition to the Louvre Museum in Paris and the East Building addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the China-born, U.S.-trained architect took on commissions that helped reshape cities around the world through the second half of the 20th century.

After studying under former Bauhaus master Walter Gropius at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Pei worked for New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf from 1948 to 1960, where he designed various gridded concrete towers. In the following decades he helped define the ambitions of modern cities through various cultural, academic, and civic commissions on high profile sites. While his straightforward geometric forms aren’t for everyone, so many of his buildings are used by seemingly everyone. Here are some that have delighted and confounded CityLab staff over the years: