Architect I.M. Pei died this week in New York City. He was 102. Being a centenarian is noteworthy enough. He was born in Hong Kong in 1917. I would love to join that club. Imagine how much change he experienced throughout his life. But, of course, Pei was also a celebrated Pritzker Prize winning architect.
For those of you in Toronto, you can look to Commerce Court West to see an example of his work (Page & Steele was the local architect). Completed in 1972, it was the tallest building in Canada until 1976. But perhaps his most well known project is the Louvre Pyramid in Paris (pictured above).
In reading some of his obituaries, I was intrigued — but in no way surprised — to learn that the Louvre Pyramid was deeply hated by Parisians at the time it was being proposed and built. Supposedly, for the first few years after completion, Pei couldn’t walk the streets of Paris without people berating him.
However, if you surveyed Parisians today, I would bet you that the approval rating of the Pyramid would be extremely high. And I would also argue that it has since become one of Paris’ most globally recognizable symbols. (Parisians, please weigh in below in the comments.)
All of this, once again, suggests to me that we’re often not very good at evaluating the merits of things that are new to us. Pei’s Pyramid, beyond being a new circulation strategy for the broader complex, was a radically different style of architecture.
Appreciating that sometimes requires a bit of time.