US architect, born in China, best known for his monumental public buildings. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.
Born in Canton, Pei studied in the USA from 1935, attending the University of Philadelphia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When World War II prevented his return to China he worked on architectural contracts in several cities and served on the National Defense Committee. In 1948 he became architectural director of Webb and Knapp Inc., in New York, where he worked with the developer William Zeckendorf on a number of large urban projects, including the Mile High Center, Denver (1952–56), a masterpiece of the International Style. Pei became a US citizen in 1954, founding his own architectural firm a year later. His buildings of the 1960s and 1970s include the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at Harvard University (1964), the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado (1967), the John Hancock Tower, Boston (1973), and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, Washington d.c. (1971–78). These major works are all characterized by the dramatic juxtaposition of simple geometric forms that has become the architect's hallmark. Similar principles governed Pei's design for a glass and steel pyramid erected in the forecourt of the Louvre Museum, Paris, in 1989 – a work that initially caused some controversy but is now established as one of the landmarks of Paris. His works of the 1990s include the Bank of China in Hong Kong.