The Louvre Museum Pays Tribute to Architect I.M. Pei

Louvre palace and pyramids at night, Paris, France
credit: Vladislav Zolotov/iStock Editorial/GettyImages

Architecture, travel, and design lovers alike often yearn to visit the Louvre Museum's iconic pyramid entryway. The stunning feat of architecture came to life in 1989 at the hands of I.M. Pei, who passed away at 102 years old this Thursday, May 16. His skill and imagination added a magical feeling to the Louvre and Paris at large.

In 2010, architect I.M. Pei discussed his design process and career with The Guardian. His humor and wit were evident, along with his wisdom about architecture and its history.

"Today, we rush ­everything, but architecture is slow, and the landscapes it sits in even slower," he told The Guardian. "It needs the time our political systems won't allow."

Born in China, Pei traveled to San Francisco in 1935. In the U.S. his architectural career began to take off. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. In 1983, he won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. That same year, he received the career-changing commission for the Louvre. In 1992, he won a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I.M. Pei at the Louvre Pyramid Construction
credit: Owen Franken - Corbis/Corbis Historical/GettyImages

Pei's architectural projects span the globe, from Japan to Qatar to New York. The iconic Louvre pyramid turned 30 this year.

And while nowadays you can find tons of photos on Instagram in front of the entrance, it wasn't always regarded so highly. In fact, a lot of people in Paris straight out hated it.

Ian Bader, an architect who worked with Pei on the project, told Architect in 2017: "It was such a controversy at the time, and I remember walking down the street and seeing a newspaper with a cartoon of all of Paris trapped inside the pyramid, as if this monster had taken over the culture of France." As The Art Newspaper notes, the pyramid received criticism from all sides, with Le Figaro newspaper calling it a "gadget."

FRANCE-ARCHITECTURE-LOUVRE
credit: PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/GettyImages

Of course, Pei didn't mean to spark a controversy. The architect told The Guardian that the pyramid design acted as a nod to the history of Paris. He told the publication: "Paris is a city of pyramids, from the time when ­Napoleon [after whom the court the pyramid rises from is named] became fascinated by Egyptian architecture, after his military campaign along the Nile."

On its Instagram, the Louvre paid tribute to Pei with the following heartfelt message:

"For 30 years your entrance to the Louvre has evolved into an icon as famous as the Mona Lisa, for 30 years you have infused the Louvre with audacity and modernity. Thank you Mr. Pei."

The museum's Instagram story also showed staff getting together to applaud Mr. Pei. "His intelligence, elegance and incredible smile will always remain with us," the caption read.

If you're in New York City, Curbed released this map featuring Pei's iconic buildings for a self-guided architectural tour.

Here's to an important architect whose work is sure to influence generations to come.


Eva Recinos

Eva Recinos

Eva Recinos is an associate editor at Hunker. You can reach her at eva@hunker.com.