NEW YORK — I.M. Pei, the versatile, globe-trotting architect who captured the spirit of rebellion at the multi-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and revived the Louvre in Paris with a giant glass pyramid, has died at age 102.
Pei's death was confirmed Thursday by Marc Diamond, a spokesman for Pei's New York architectural firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.
Pei's works ranged from the trapezoidal addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the chiseled towers of the National Center of Atmospheric Research that blend in with the reddish mountains in Boulder, Colo.
His buildings added elegance to landscapes worldwide with their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces. Among them are the striking steel and glass Bank of China skyscraper in Hong Kong and the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing. His work spanned decades, starting in the late 1940s and continuing through the new millennium. Two of his last major projects, the Museum of Islamic Art, located on an artificial island just off the waterfront in Doha, Qatar, and the Macau Science Center, in China, opened in 2008 and 2009.
Pei painstakingly researched each project, studying its use and relating it to the environment. But he also was interested in architecture as art — and the effect he could create.
"At one level my goal is simply to give people pleasure in being in a space and walking around it," he said. "But I also think architecture can reach a level where it influences people to want to do something more with their lives. That is the challenge that I find most interesting."
No challenge seemed to be too great for Pei, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Pei, who admitted he was just catching up with The Beatles, researched the roots of rock 'n' roll and came up with an array of contrasting shapes for the museum. He topped it off with a transparent tent-like structure, which was "open — like the music," he said.
Pei, who was born in Shanghai, immigrated to the U.S. and studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He advanced from his early work of designing office buildings, low-income housing and mixed-used complexes to a worldwide collection of museums, municipal buildings and hotels.
He fell into a modernist style blending elegance and technology, creating crisp, precise buildings.
A slight, unpretentious man, Pei developed a reputation as a skilled diplomat, persuading clients to spend the money for his grand-scale projects and working with a cast of engineers and developers.
Some of his designs were met with much controversy, such as the 71-foot faceted glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris. French President Francois Mitterrand, who chose Pei to oversee the decaying, overcrowded museum's renovation, endured a barrage of criticism when he unveiled the plan in 1984.
Pei officially retired in 1990 but continued to work on projects.