It Is A Work Of Our Time

Frizz Tagged P: I. M. Pei

Leoh Ming (I.M.) Pei, who was born in China in 1917 and came to U.S. in 1935 in pursuing graduate studies at MIT and Harvard, He is known as a master of modern architecture.IM Pei

This is the part II of the mini series. Part of this post may answer the question that most of us have wondered, “Why glass pyramid for Louvre?”

Bank of China Tower (Hong Kong, 1982-1989)

Challenge: To build a tall, 515 m (1,033.5 ft.) high, building that can resist earthquake and high wind. (Hong Kong has twice the wind loads in NY or Chicago.)

Pei’s big engineering breakthrough was distributing the weight from the top out and down to its four corners of the building. Each time, when the structure meets an intersection from the top level, thus, the weight is distributed to the next level of the structure. That was just one of the many engineering solutions.



Pei’s father was the first generation of the Bank of China. Thus, Pei felt obliged to take on this project. But, his father did not live to see the building of the bank. “It was my biggest regret.” he said.

The Glass Pyramid of Louvre (Paris, 1983-1989 phase I and 1989-1993 phase II)

Pei admitted that the challenge was difficult from the beginning, he said, “I don’t think I’d want to do another Louvre.”  This described the unbearable obstacles he had encountered during the long 10 years.

Louvre_Pyramid wikipedia

(photo from wikipedia)

Pei’s vision was “Closing the path of the spirit of the past and modern times.” During that period of time, 90% of the people in France opposed his glass pyramid idea because they didn’t want to bring Egyptian Pyramid to Louvre.

Why glass pyramid?

Pei explains:

  • The glass pyramid is a symbol that defines the entry to the Louvre. It is placed precisely at the center of gravity of the three pavilions. (Prior to the glass pyramid, Louvre had three different entrances/exits. Visitors had difficulty to find the path, entrances, and exits in any part of the three buildings.)
  • It centralizes the entrances and exits (that Pei persisted this idea from the beginning). This idea also created an easy access to the Metro, city, and garden from Louvre.
  • The triangle form is an effective solution to stabilize the structure and the glass brings sunlight that makes the underground space transparent.
  • There was no relation between a stone pyramid in Egypt and our glass pyramid. One was constructed for the dead and the other for the living.Louvre_pyramid


In 1989, Pei stated, ” The Grand Louvre will hold the first place in my life as an architect.”  When asked how he felt about the accomplishment, Pei said, “I have to say that I am proud of it… but, I happened to be here, in 1983, at the right time. It is something greatly important in my life.” 

Pei proved again that architecture must incorporate the daily function of a building more than simply an aesthetic gesture.  Philip Jodidio commented, “He (Pei) showed that there need not be chasm between past and present and that contemporary architecture can integrate itself into a historic setting and improve it.”

louvre pyramid-3 destinosdeviagemcom


It is a work of our time.    – I.M. Pei


  • The structure holds 675 diamond-shaped panes and 118 trianular ones. It was an engineering challenge.
  • Saint-Gobain refused to make clear glass, “If you have one thousand pyramids, I’ll make it for you…” Mitterrand (The former President of France) had to step in and order them to make, “Do it.”
  • All the glass pieces had to send to England for polishing.
  • in 1982, 3 million visitors, 6 million the year after the glass pyramid was completed, 8.3 million in 2006, and 9 million in 2010.Louvre pyramid -01


Part I: An Architect of His Time

Part III: You Still Can Go Home Again

Thanks to Frizz Tagged P. Please visit his blog site and join the challenge.

48 thoughts on “It Is A Work Of Our Time

    • Thank you so much for reading, Frizz! I’m happy to know you are interested in architecture. I’m learning to appreciate it more than an object…


      • you are welcome! the internet is still thinking pretty fast this morning! although the floor awaits, and breakfast awaits, and managing photos awaits, and hopefully an electrician will show up to install in instant-hot water system, i have chosen to catch up and enjoy a slice of good wordpress reading! rain pitter patters on the roof, so i suspect the electrician will not ride his bicycle three miles down that horrid road on this rainy morning!
        thanks, always, for the time that you spend on my posts!


  1. Great post Amy. Pei is one of my favourite architects. We went to Suzhou – the home of his ancestors – from Shanghai just to visit his museum, and were not disappointed 🙂


    • You saw Suzhou Museum!! I envoy you, Madhu. Seeing the photos on Internet made me teary eyed… He was 89 when he completed the building.
      Thank you so much for your comment.


    • They did a great job of polishing these hundreds of pieces of glass in England. Thank you so much for letting me know you enjoy reading the series. Happy to share it with you, Jo 🙂


    • Thank you so much for letting me share the story with you, Sb! He is one of the few that has made tremendous difference for the modern architecture.


    • You’re so right, no limits if one is determined. IM Pei certainly had strong determination, and vision as well. Thank you for spending time here, IT!


  2. I remember all the controversy about the Louvre pyramid while growing up in Paris. The biggest issue was not the shape of it, but rather the modern look in contrast to the older Louvre structure. I think it’s grown on people and I like how they have the water ponds all around the pyramid. I still think it looks out of place, like a spaceship that landed there overnight.


    • Thank you for reading it. I remember the contrast argument. Somehow, the books that I have read regarding this design were not on this contrast issue, writers and editors were focusing on the issues of the shape that Pei was facing. It could be that his concept of connecting past and present using the modern design was sold to the administration level at some point, but the pyramid became a focus.


    • Thank you, Valerie! I think my small study of IM Pei’s work help me accept his vision and understand his struggles a little better. Thank you for reading it.


    • Thank you so much for reading, LuAnne! I only spend a little time to summarize what I have read. Blogging have opened a gate for us to learn and share from each other.


  3. I must say that I didn’t like the idea of an Egyptian pyramid either. To these days I have a problem with that modern construction in front of an historical building, even though I got accustomed to see it. In your night photo, one can clearly see the obstruction of the beautiful entry to the Louvre.


    • I, too, had a problem with that modern construction… Through my small studying, I learn about the functionality part and why. When I wrote the post and the” An Architect of His Time”, I tried not to mix it with my preferences, but on his vision and accomplishment.
      Thank you so much for reading it! So happy to hear from your feedback, Valentina!


  4. Pingback: Architecture of Symmetry – Suzhou | spaceship china

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