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Mapping I.M. Pei’s major works

An architecture legend

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Born in Guangzhou, China, in 1917, I.M. Pei moved to the United States at age 18 to pursue a career in architecture. The rest, of course, is history, with prominent commissions worldwide—including the celebrated Louvre pyramid, which won the AIA 25 Year Award in 2017—and a host of top honors, from the Pritzker Prize (1983) to the first Praemium Imperiale for architecture from the Japan Art Association (1989), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1993), and the Cooper Hewitt Design Award for Lifetime Achievement (2003).

The bespectacled blueprint master hasn't always enjoyed universal acclaim—his early attempts at city planning flopped and cost overruns were a near constant concern—but his many masterpieces are true icons of modern architecture. Here’s a look at 17 major works from Pei and his firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

—additional research by Alexandra Danna and Jenny Xie

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I.M. Pei House

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Similar to Philip Johnson’s Glass House, this hyper-minimalist box was built by Pei in 1952 as his own weekend getaway. Nestled on a hilltop in Katonah, New York, the house enjoys seemingly endless panoramic views, despite being just an hour out of New York City.

William Slayton House

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The second of only three private residences designed by Pei, the William Slayton House was completed in 1958 for a Washington, D.C. developer. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the house has 3,300 square feet beneath a vaulted concrete roof.

Pei Plan for Oklahoma City

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In 1964, Pei began formulating a plan to redevelop the downtown core of Oklahoma City, aimed at addressing a lack of parking and restrictive lot sizes. The highly controversial plan called for demolishing hundreds of historic buildings and met much public opposition, but by 1980, the plan was largely realized.

National Center for Atmospheric Research

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Pei enjoyed more popular success with his design for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The concrete towers feature so-called "crow’s nests," rooms for quiet contemplation with magnificent mountain views. It was completed in 1967.

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Dallas City Hall

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Completed in 1978, Pei’s Dallas City Hall was designed as an inverted pyramid, a reflection of the space requirements—small for the public-facing offices on the ground floor, large for the administrative offices above. The glassy design also literally reflected an image of the city and people entering the seat of government.

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200 Clarendon Street

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Still the tallest building in New England, the building formerly known as the John Hancock Tower was actually designed by Pei’s partner Henry Cobb, but the controversy, stemming from cost overruns and glass-panel failures after its 1976 opening, fell squarely on Pei. 

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National Gallery of Art, East Building

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Linked to the original National Gallery of Art building by an underground passageway, Pei’s East Building combines intimate gallery spaces with a soaring central atrium that’s home to a giant Alexander Calder sculpture. Finished in 1978, the building recently reopened after a $69 million renovation.

UIG via Getty Images

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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If the Hancock Tower dented Pei’s reputation in Boston, his design for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library was his redemption. Selected as the designer in 1964, Pei spent years on the project, which was finally completed in 1979. The architect is said to consider this his most important commission.

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Fragrant Hill Hotel

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In the late 1970s, Pei returned to his native China to design the Fragrant Hill Hotel, a luxury hotel amid the former imperial hunting grounds on the outskirts of Beijing. A surprisingly traditional structure, the hotel was completed in 1982 and in 1984 won an AIA National Honor Award.

Javits Center

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Despite his growing popularity and success, Pei and his firm found themselves caught up in yet another controversial project with the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Due to cost overruns, the compromised design satisfied neither the architects nor the city of New York, which mentioned neither Pei nor project architect James Freed at the building’s dedication.

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Meyerson Symphony Center

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Completed in 1989 and currently ranked among the finest orchestra halls in the world, the Meyerson Symphony Center was designed by Pei in conjunction with acoustics expert Russell Johnson. Seventy-four 2.5-ton concrete doors, 56 acoustical curtains, and a system of canopies are all used to improve acoustics.

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Bank of China Tower

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Following his Pritzker Prize win in 1983, Pei landed some even more impressive commissions, including the Bank of China tower, today an icon of the Hong Kong skyline. Completed in 1990, the angular glass tower was built on the site of historic Murray House, a Victorian-era structure that was moved, brick by brick.

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Pyramid for the Louvre Museum

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Far and away Pei’s most famous commission, this glassy pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre was notoriously controversial at the time of its 1989 completion. Today, the pyramid is an icon, and Pei’s innovative underground lobby design has become the model for several historic adaptations around the world.

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Four Seasons Hotel New York

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Designed in collaboration with Frank Williams and frequent client William Zeckendorf, the Four Seasons Hotel New York is the second tallest hotel in New York and is topped by the epic Ty Warner Penthouse Suite, which I.M. Pei renovated in 2004. That suite now goes for $50,000 a night.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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After a series of high-brow commissions, Pei brought the sloping-glass theme to Cleveland with his design for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Opened in 1995, the building houses gallery space, offices, and a concert venue.

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Miho Museum

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In the late 1990s, Pei traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to design what would become his favorite project, the Miho Museum. Built to house the private collection of Mihoko Koyama, the museum features a tunnel entrance, soaring glass ceilings, and the same stone Pei used to line the Louvre lobby.

Museum of Islamic Art

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Undeterred by age, in 2005 Pei plunged himself into the design for the Museum of Islamic Art, which he said would be his last major cultural building. The remarkable stacked-box design occupies a purpose-built manmade island in the Doha harbor.

UIG via Getty Images

I.M. Pei House

Similar to Philip Johnson’s Glass House, this hyper-minimalist box was built by Pei in 1952 as his own weekend getaway. Nestled on a hilltop in Katonah, New York, the house enjoys seemingly endless panoramic views, despite being just an hour out of New York City.

William Slayton House

The second of only three private residences designed by Pei, the William Slayton House was completed in 1958 for a Washington, D.C. developer. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the house has 3,300 square feet beneath a vaulted concrete roof.

Pei Plan for Oklahoma City

In 1964, Pei began formulating a plan to redevelop the downtown core of Oklahoma City, aimed at addressing a lack of parking and restrictive lot sizes. The highly controversial plan called for demolishing hundreds of historic buildings and met much public opposition, but by 1980, the plan was largely realized.

National Center for Atmospheric Research

LightRocket via Getty Images

Pei enjoyed more popular success with his design for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The concrete towers feature so-called "crow’s nests," rooms for quiet contemplation with magnificent mountain views. It was completed in 1967.

LightRocket via Getty Images

Dallas City Hall

Getty Images

Completed in 1978, Pei’s Dallas City Hall was designed as an inverted pyramid, a reflection of the space requirements—small for the public-facing offices on the ground floor, large for the administrative offices above. The glassy design also literally reflected an image of the city and people entering the seat of government.

Getty Images

200 Clarendon Street

Getty Images

Still the tallest building in New England, the building formerly known as the John Hancock Tower was actually designed by Pei’s partner Henry Cobb, but the controversy, stemming from cost overruns and glass-panel failures after its 1976 opening, fell squarely on Pei. 

Getty Images

National Gallery of Art, East Building

UIG via Getty Images

Linked to the original National Gallery of Art building by an underground passageway, Pei’s East Building combines intimate gallery spaces with a soaring central atrium that’s home to a giant Alexander Calder sculpture. Finished in 1978, the building recently reopened after a $69 million renovation.

UIG via Getty Images

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Getty Images

If the Hancock Tower dented Pei’s reputation in Boston, his design for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library was his redemption. Selected as the designer in 1964, Pei spent years on the project, which was finally completed in 1979. The architect is said to consider this his most important commission.

Getty Images

Fragrant Hill Hotel

In the late 1970s, Pei returned to his native China to design the Fragrant Hill Hotel, a luxury hotel amid the former imperial hunting grounds on the outskirts of Beijing. A surprisingly traditional structure, the hotel was completed in 1982 and in 1984 won an AIA National Honor Award.

Javits Center

Shutterstock

Despite his growing popularity and success, Pei and his firm found themselves caught up in yet another controversial project with the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Due to cost overruns, the compromised design satisfied neither the architects nor the city of New York, which mentioned neither Pei nor project architect James Freed at the building’s dedication.

Shutterstock

Meyerson Symphony Center

Alamy Stock Photo

Completed in 1989 and currently ranked among the finest orchestra halls in the world, the Meyerson Symphony Center was designed by Pei in conjunction with acoustics expert Russell Johnson. Seventy-four 2.5-ton concrete doors, 56 acoustical curtains, and a system of canopies are all used to improve acoustics.

Alamy Stock Photo

Bank of China Tower

Shutterstock

Following his Pritzker Prize win in 1983, Pei landed some even more impressive commissions, including the Bank of China tower, today an icon of the Hong Kong skyline. Completed in 1990, the angular glass tower was built on the site of historic Murray House, a Victorian-era structure that was moved, brick by brick.

Shutterstock

Pyramid for the Louvre Museum

Corbis via Getty Images

Far and away Pei’s most famous commission, this glassy pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre was notoriously controversial at the time of its 1989 completion. Today, the pyramid is an icon, and Pei’s innovative underground lobby design has become the model for several historic adaptations around the world.

Corbis via Getty Images

Four Seasons Hotel New York

Shutterstock

Designed in collaboration with Frank Williams and frequent client William Zeckendorf, the Four Seasons Hotel New York is the second tallest hotel in New York and is topped by the epic Ty Warner Penthouse Suite, which I.M. Pei renovated in 2004. That suite now goes for $50,000 a night.

Shutterstock

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Getty Images

After a series of high-brow commissions, Pei brought the sloping-glass theme to Cleveland with his design for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Opened in 1995, the building houses gallery space, offices, and a concert venue.

Getty Images

Miho Museum

In the late 1990s, Pei traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to design what would become his favorite project, the Miho Museum. Built to house the private collection of Mihoko Koyama, the museum features a tunnel entrance, soaring glass ceilings, and the same stone Pei used to line the Louvre lobby.

Museum of Islamic Art

UIG via Getty Images

Undeterred by age, in 2005 Pei plunged himself into the design for the Museum of Islamic Art, which he said would be his last major cultural building. The remarkable stacked-box design occupies a purpose-built manmade island in the Doha harbor.