From his provoking Louvre pyramid to his inverted wedge for Dallas, the Chinese-American architect was too modern for his time but his angular wonders look perfect now
So bold were IM Pei’s layouts, they were often regarded as wilfully controversial, designed to shock. But Pei himself never understood 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 satisfied. He carried their torch, abiding by their principles and adding prospers of his own- typically too many for the general public. To those modernist foundations of proportion, simplicity, geometry, Pei added audacious angles and structural audaciou. The outcome is a body of work that is instantly recognisable- more so than their withdraw inventor, who died this week aged 102.
Pei’s 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 place in the movie RoboCop. Its huge, inverted wedge of its term of office floors seemed too precarious in early intends: Pei had to express the stairwells as cylindrical towers, to give the impression they were holding up the seven-storey overhang when in fact they provided no structural purpose.