I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity.— I. M. Pei
The most sensual I. M. Pei quotes that will be huge advantage for your personal development
Contemporary architects tend to impose modernity on something.
There is a certain concern for history but it’s not very deep. I understand that time has changed, we have evolved. But I don’t want to forget the beginning. A lasting architecture has to have roots.
Stop worrying about missed opportunities and start looking for new ones.
I was born in Suzhou, a city not very far from Shanghai.
It's a very interesting town - there is a long artist's tradition there, especially during the Ming and Ching dynasties, which produced many, many scholars and painters and so forth. That's where my family lived for 600, 700 years.
I haven't taken any new projects in the past years - I told myself, if I cannot live long enough to finish it, I don't want it.
Many of the projects I'm most proud of are tall buildings, especially the housing projects. In New York I have two: one in Kips Bay and one at New York University. At that time, those projects were most challenging.
I cannot work and listen to Wagner at the same time, nor Mahler, nor Beethoven's late quartets. I enjoy listening to Chopin's piano music when I work.
For Kips Bay, I had a wonderful client, William Zeckendorf, who was willing to gamble with me on using concrete and not brick for a high-rise apartment building. That was very innovative at the time.
François Mitterrand was a student of architecture, he had done a lot of research before he called me. He said, "You did something special at the National Gallery of Art in Washington - you brought the new and the old together." But John Russell Pope finished the West Building in 1941, so when the East Building opened it was only about 40 years old. But the Louvre is 800 years old! A much bigger design challenge.
At home, I have a wife, fortunately, and my children are all grown, and I have many grandchildren. I spend weekends with my grandchildren; I adore them.
I've been active all my life. In 1990 I retired from my firm, I.M. Pei & Partners, and for two years I didn't do much. Then I started to get kind of antsy, so I decided, I'm going to do some more work. And I chose to do work outside the U.S. because I've spent 45 years here and I wanted to learn more about what's happening in the rest of the world.
I want to bring out the best in a community and contribute something of permanent value.
It is not an individual act, architecture.
You have to consider your client. Only out of that can you produce great architecture. You cannot work in the abstract
Be the best, not necessarily the original.
I didn't want to think about a project that I couldn't finish.
That's a kind of temptation. One has to realize one's limitations. Why kid yourself?
When I got the opportunity to do the new wing [the Schauhaus] for the German Historical Museum, for instance, I didn't see it as an opportunity for my own ego, to do something so exciting that every architectural publication would want to put it on the cover. I accepted it because I knew it was going to be a very difficult project, and I wasn't sure I could do something exciting there.
Great artists need great clients.
Let's do it right. This is for the ages.
Design is something you have to put your hand to.
Architecture is the very mirror of life.
You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.
My projects have typically taken a long time to complete.
Buildings might take on average about five to seven years to finish, but in my case it's been longer, because the projects I have accepted within the past 15 years have been mostly government projects, and those involve some politics and funding issues, and approvals and so forth. So they're slower.
Success is a collection of problems solved.
You cannot defend your design without knowing what you're designing for.
On a daily basis, my home life is very simple.
I spend about 2 hours every morning reading the newspaper. As my two assistants will tell you, I don't come to work in the mornings, for two reasons. First, I want to be informed - that means I go through The New York Times every day, and then I watch some news on television. The second is, mornings are the best time to communicate with my clients abroad.
At the beginning, I thought the best Islamic work was in Spain - the mosque in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada. But as I learned more, my ideas shifted. I traveled to Egypt, and to the Middle East many times.I found the most wonderful examples of Islamic work in Cairo, it turns out. I'd visited mosques there before, but I didn't see them with the same eye as I did this time. They truly said something to me about Islamic architecture.
I know something about the civilization of China, with my background, obviously, and I think I know something about American history. But that's about all. And I've traveled all over the world, and for a long time I didn't know very much about it, really.
Life is architecture and architecture is the mirror of life.
Qatar does not have much history, it's a new emirate.
So I couldn't draw on the history of the country; its history is really just being a desert. But I thought, the one thing I must learn about for this project is the Islamic faith. So I read about Islam and Islamic architecture, and the more I studied the more I realized where the best Islamic buildings were.
I travel to the Middle East, I travel to China, I travel to Europe.
It's all very rewarding - the only problem is the travel is getting more and more difficult for me now. Ten years ago I would have enjoyed it a lot more.