I.M. Pei, world-renowned architect responsible for some of the most iconic modern structures, died on Thursday at the age of 102. Pei created the Louvre Pyramid, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. He also designed the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University.
Andrea Simitch, chair of the architecture department at Cornell and expert in architectural design, architectural representation and furniture design, says Pei played a critical role in teaching architecture students how to see and draw architectural space.
“Pei knew when a building needed to be exuberant and when it needed to whisper. He posited architecture as both deeply abstract yet firmly rooted to its context, sometimes even producing its own context. Many of his works appeared as monumental sculptural masses yet, once occupied, were bathed in a cacophony of light and shadow.
“Pei’s Johnson Museum at Cornell has always served an important didactic role in teaching our architecture students how to see and draw architectural space. Conceptually interpreted ‘...as a solid volume from which discreet masses have been removed, the resulting voids are spatial inscriptions and extensions of the regulating lines and registrations of the surrounding context…’ (excerpted from Simitch & Warke the language of architecture pg 69).”
Alex Mergold, architecture professor and expert in user-centered design, says Pei’s lifelong career is an example of the bright future ahead for architecture students.
“The Johnson Museum is tangible proof that what our students do in their first year design studios at Cornell can and will become great architecture.”