From his provocative Louvre pyramid to his inverted wedge for Dallas, the Chinese-American architect was too modern for his time but his angular marvels look perfect now
So bold were IM Peis designs, they were often regarded as wilfully controversial, designed to shock. But Pei himself never saw it like that. He was possibly the last living link to such founders of modernism as Le Corbusier and Bauhaus stalwarts Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, all of whom he met. He carried their torch, abiding by their principles and adding flourishes of his own usually too many for the general public. To those modernist foundations of proportion, simplicity, geometry, Pei added audacious angles and structural daring. The result is a body of work that is instantly recognisable more so than their retiring creator, who died this week aged 102.
Peis Dallas Civic Center was a statement of intent. Commissioned as part of a drive to rebrand the city following the assassination of President John F Kennedy, it was a statement of civic grandeur with more than a touch of sci-fi. It was later used as a location in the movie RoboCop. Its huge, inverted wedge of office floors looked too precarious in early designs: Pei had to express the stairwells as cylindrical columns, to give the impression they were holding up the seven-storey overhang when in fact they served no structural purpose.
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