Since 1848 the Royal Gold Medal has been given to one international architect annually. One of the most prestigious awards in architecture it is approved personally by the British monarch. Chinese-born American Pei will join the ranks of Sir Edwin Lutyens, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Oscar Neiemeyer, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers who have previously received the award.
Pei was nominated for the honour by fellow renowned architect 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 canon 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."
Pei is best known for his glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris which became one of the great landmarks of the city after its construction completed in 1989, and in thanks for the recognition he will generously donate a drawing of the Louvre pyramid to the RIBA collections.
His other buildings include the National Center for Atmospheric Research Boulder, Colorado, the East Wing of the National Gallery Washington DC, the John F Kennedy Library, Boston, the Bank of China, Hong Kong, and the Miho Museum in Shiga, Japan (1991-97). In recent years Pei 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).
At the Royal Gold Medal ceremony the RIBA will also award 10 International Fellowships to non-UK architects who have made an outstanding contribution to architecture and 12 RIBA Honorary Fellowships to reward the particular contributions people have made to architecture in its broadest sense.