I. M. Pei wins Royal Gold Medal

Oct 7, 2009
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

American architect I. M. Pei was yesterday awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The 92 year old was presented with the award by RIBA President, Ruth Reed, in recognition of a lifetime’s work.

I. M. Pei’s work includes the National Center for Atmospheric Research Boulder, Colorado (1961-67), the Bank of China, Hong Kong (1982-89), and the Grand Louvre expansion and renovation (1983-93). He also worked on the Collins Place development in Melbourne with Australian firm, Bates Smart McCutcheon (completed 1981).

Ruth Reid said of the recipient: “At 92 he is that rarity, an officially retired architect, though there is still work in the pipeline to be delivered, work that will crown the extraordinary achievements of six decades in which he has reinvented the housing, gallery and commercial building types. He is truly an inspiration for all architects.”

Pei was also presented with a specially commissioned digital film of his building that wasn’t built: the Hyperboloid, a tower designed in 1954 for Manhattan, the plans for which inspired organic structures around the world.

Awarded in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the medal is given to a person or group of people whose work “has promoted either directly or indirectly the advancement of architecture.”

Pei was nominated for the 2010 medal by David Adjaye, who said that Pei had been a role model for him: “His work seemed effortlessly capable of creating extraordinary clarity out of complex and conflicting demands.”

Pei said it was “a great honour to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. I am humbled indeed to read the names of those who have preceded me as recipients.”

This year’s RIBA Honours Committee was chaired by Ruth Reed, President of the RIBA, with David Adjaye OBE, architect, Adjaye Associates; Edward Cullinan CBE, architect, Edward Cullinan Architects; Max Fordham, Environmental Engineer, Max Fordham Partnership; Anne Lacaton, architect, Lacaton & Vassal (Paris); and Laura Lee, Client, Maggie’s.

The Chinese-born American architect, who is 92 years old, has completed over 170 projects and more than 50 masterplans in his prolific career. He studied architecture at MIT and received his Masters of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1955 he formed his own practice, I. M. Pei & Associates, which is now Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. He received the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1979, and in 1983, he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The Gold Medal was inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1848. Previous winners include: Sir Charles Barry, Sir George Gilbert Scott, Alfred Waterhouse, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Charles Voysey, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Kenzo Tange, Ove Arup, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Louis Kahn, James Stirling, Berthold Lubetkin, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito and Alvaro Siza.

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