I.M. Pei’s Son Speaks of His Father’s Legacy of Creating ‘Places for People’ Ahead of a Retrospective in Hong Kong - Kanebridge News
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I.M. Pei’s Son Speaks of His Father’s Legacy of Creating ‘Places for People’ Ahead of a Retrospective in Hong Kong

By ABBY SCHULTZ
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 9:50amGrey Clock 5 min

I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”



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Property prices are tipped to hit a $A1 million median as the city attracts a skilled workforce from other states

By Robyn Willis
Thu, Jun 6, 2024 3 min

Australia has a new urban destination for those seeking a high quality of life — and it’s not Melbourne or Sydney.

A new report released by Deloitte Access Economics has revealed Brisbane as the best ‘city swap’ location to live and work. It follows on from the east coast capital being named as one of the 50 best places in the world by Time Magazine, the only Australian capital to make the list.

The State of the Cities Report by Deloitte Access Economics reported the city offers significant advantages to businesses and workers alike, with a $25 billion infrastructure pipeline in play to support the city’s rapid population growth as well as a track record of processing development applications 38 percent faster than other cities. Commercial rents are also appealing compared with the southern cities, averaging $450sqm less than similar centres in Australia and internationally.

For workers, commute times are minimised with less congestion on the roads and trains more likely to run on time compared with other Australian cities.

The report also found that Brisbane’s economy is set to grow by 68 percent to $275 billion in the 20 years to 2041.

An easily accessible city has made Brisbane an attractive option for Australians looking to make a change.

Clearly, it is not news to those seeking to enter the Brisbane market, with CoreLogic data released this week showing the Queensland capital is now the second most expensive residential real estate market in the country, second only to Sydney. Prices rose by 1.4 percent during May, bringing the median property price to $843,231. Only Adelaide experienced a higher growth rate in home prices in May at 1.8 percent.

Those price increases look set to continue as Brisbane experiences the fastest growing working age population among Australia’s major centres, growing 7.7 percent compared to an average of 4 percent across major cities. The Domain House Price Report released earlier this year predicted the median house price Queensland capital would hit $1 million in the next 12 months.

While demand for housing in the city is strong, it would appear the workforce is there to support it.

Moreton Island is just a 75 minute ferry ride from Brisbane.

Lead Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, Pradeep Philip, said Brisbane offered significant growth opportunities for businesses, innovators, and investors.

“Brisbane is the definition of a growth stock, with clear opportunities for innovators, investors and businesses across Australia and internationally in the years to come,” Mr Philip said.

“This is evident in Brisbane’s talent market, where it has the fastest growing working age population among Australia’s major centres, with 7.7 percent growth against an average of 4 percent across major cities.

“This, combined with Australia’s highest ranked university, a 32 percent increase in university graduates in the past five years, and the highest state-wide rates of technical and trades education attainment in the country, positions Brisbane with a highly competitive, skilled, and growing workforce.