The 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 (Tuesday 6th October 2009) 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 Her Majesty 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 masterplans. 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 travelled 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 honoured 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: "It is a great honour 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 Honours Committee, and David Adjaye, who nominated me."