The Orig­i­nal Star­chi­tect

Esquire (Singapore) - - Style -

Let IM Pei’s sons, LC and CC, tell you about their fa­ther, who, in his 100 years on this earth, has cre­ated some of the most iconic ex­am­ples of mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture (the East Wing of the Na­tional Gallery of Art in Wash­ing­ton, DC; the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong; and the glass-pyra­mid ren­o­va­tion of Paris’s Lou­vre mu­seum). He’s been able to do it all thanks in no small part to the way he dressed, a personal ap­proach that is as time­less, modern, and prag­matic as his most renowned projects.

LC Pei: He al­ways was dressed im­pec­ca­bly. He would wear suits very well—those were tai­lored in Hong Kong. He had a style of his own, but he also had a bear­ing. You can’t just put on a suit and ex­pect ev­ery­thing to fall into place. The way he dressed and the way his build­ings were de­signed were all of a piece. CC Pei: He never looked like a busi­ness­man; he al­ways did sort of look like an ar­chi­tect. His suits, in­stead of be­ing grey, they might be a lit­tle brown. They might have a win­dow­pane in­stead of a pin­stripe. And his ties were not just solids or just a sim­ple dot; they would have a pat­tern that re­flected some­body who had more of an artis­tic bent. LC Pei: Even when he was very young, he had wire-rim glasses that were cir­cu­lar. Even­tu­ally they turned into more pro­nounced tor­toise­shell frames. But it was nat­u­ral; it wasn’t an abrupt change. It fit him and it’s be­come his sig­na­ture. CC Pei: The way that he lived, ev­ery­thing counted. I can still re­mem­ber the cars that he bought were al­ways very stylish. When we were re­ally lit­tle, he was driv­ing a big black Jaguar—a Mark IV, a con­vert­ible with what are called P100 head­lights. LC Pei: Many of his clients were titans of in­dus­try and culture, politi­cians. He dressed in a way that ev­ery­one felt com­fort­able in each other’s pres­ence. There’s a sense of lan­guage of dress. And it was some­thing that gave him a plat­form to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion about design.

His abil­ity to take crit­i­cism grace­fully turned out to be very dis­arm­ing to his crit­ics, be­cause they saw how well he han­dled it. He was very tena­cious. He didn’t give up, but at the same time he was very gen­tle in the way he re­ceived crit­i­cism. That’s es­pe­cially true in Paris. The crit­i­cism was re­lent­less for a long pe­riod of time. And look at the out­come. He never gave up, and he got ev­ery­thing that he was looking for pretty much. CC Pei: When this thing was be­ing built, we knew that it was go­ing to be­come an­other one of those sym­bols of Paris. Eif­fel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Coeur, the Lou­vre. It’s right there on the list. It stands lit­er­ally next to all of those.

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