Ieoh Ming Pei - 1983 Laureate

Ieoh Ming Pei 

1983 Laureate

Ieoh Ming Pei is a founding partner of I. M. Pei & Partners, since evolved to Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, based in New York City. He was born in China in 1917. He come to the United States in 1935 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B. Arch. 1940) and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (M. Arch. 1946). In 1948, he accepted the newly created post of Director of Architecture at Webb & Knapp, Inc., the real estate development firm, and this association resulted in major architectural and planning projects in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh and other cities. In 1958, he formed the partnership of I. M. Pei & Associates, which become I.M. Pei & Partners in 1966. The partnership received the 1968 Architectural Firm Award of The American Institute of Architects

Pei has designed over fifty projects in this country and abroad, many of which have been award winners. His more prominent commissions have included the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Le Grand Louvre in Paris, France; the Bank of China in Hong Kong; the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library near Boston; the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado; the Dallas City Hall in Texas; The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas; the Society Hill development in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation Centre (OCBC) and Raffles City in Singapore; the West Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing, China; Creative Artists Agency Headquarters in Beverly Hills, California; the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York; an IBM Office Complex in Somers, NY and another in Purchase, NY; the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; and the Texas Commerce Tower in Houston. 

He has designed arts facilities and university buildings on the campuses of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, Cornell University, the Choate School, Syracuse University, New York University and the University of Hawaii

As a student, he was awarded the MIT Traveling Fellowship, and the Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship at Harvard. His subsequent honors' include the following: the Brunner Award,the Medal of Honor of the New York Chapter of the AIA, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Medal for Architecture, the Gold Medal for Architecture of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Alpha Rho Chi Gold Medal, la Grande Medaille d'Or of l'Academie d'Architecture (France), and The Gold Medal of The American Institute of Architects. In 1982, the deans of the architectural schools of the United States chose 1. M. Pei as the best designer of significant non-residential structures. 

Citation from the Pritzker Jury 

Ieoh Ming Pei has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms. Yet the significance of his work goes far beyond that. His concern has always been the surroundings in which his buildings rise. 

He has refused to limit himself to a narrow range of architectural problems. His work over the past forty years includes not only palaces of industry, government and culture, but also moderate and low income housing. His versatility and skill in the use of materials approach the level of poetry. 

His tact and patience have enabled him to draw together peoples of disparate interests and disciplines to create an harmonious environment. 

Ieoh Ming Pei's Acceptance Speech

It is a geat honor to be here tonight to receive the 1983 International Pritzker Architecture Prize. I take particular pleasure in thanking those who coneived the prize, those who have administered it, and the distinguished jurors who have seen fit to select me as this year's recipient. 

During the preparation of the exhibits here, it was reassuring to observe that quite a number of our projects actually led to finished buildings. Especially vivid in my mind were the many social, economic, political as well as esthetic constraints that architects have had to consider in the shaping of their work. You may be amused to know, although it was not amusing to me at the time, that a house I designed for a friend in Cambridge in the early forties was denied a mortgage because it looked modern. In this sense I belong to that generation of American architects who built upon the pioneering perceptions of the modern movement, with an unwavering conviction in its significant achievements in the fields of art, technology and design. I am keenly aware of the many banalities built in its name over the years. Nevertheless, I believe in the continuity of this tradition for it is by no means a relic of the past but a living force that animates and informs the present. 

Only in this way can we develop and refine an architectural language, responsive to today's values and allow for a variety of expressions in both style and substance. How else can we hope to build a coherent physical environment for our cities, towns and neighborhoods? 

Italy's Siena and America's Savannah, Georgian London and Neoclassical Paris are but of few of the more conspicuous examples. I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity. Freedom of expression, for me, consists in moving within a measured range that I assign to each of my undertakings. How instructive it is to remember Leonardo da Vinci's counsel that 'strength is born of constraint and dies in freedom.' 

The chase for the new, from the singular perspective of style, has too often resulted in only the arbitrariness of whim, the disorder of caprice. It is easy to say that the art of architecture is everything, but how difficult it is to introduce the conscious intervention of an artistic imagination without straying from the context of life. 

It is this fragility, this preciousness, that elevates and distinguishes this art form. It is this enfolding context that challenges us to transform planning and building opportuniites into the exalted realm of architecture. Architects by design investigate the play of volumes in light, explore the mysteries of movement in space, examine the measure that is scale and proportion, and above all, they search for that special quality that is the spirit of the place as no building exists alone. 

The practice of architecture is a collective enterprise, with many individuals of various disciplines and talents working closely together. And from the commissioning to the completion of a project, there are also the many individuals for whom architects work, whose contribution to quality is frequently as crucial as that of the architect. So I accept this prize for all who have worked with me in this unique undertaking. Let us all be attentive to new ideas, to advancing means, to dawning needs, to impetuses of change so that we may achieve, beyond architectural originality, a harmony of spirit in the service of man.