Sat, May 27, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Bilingual Arts: Ieoh Ming Pei

The Luce Memorial Chapel, taken Aug. 5 in Taichung.

Photo: Chang Ching-ya, Liberty Times

On the 26th of last month, the renowned architect Ieoh Ming Pei turned 100. This celebrated international artist has created countless masterpieces, but perhaps the most familiar to Taiwanese are the Louvre Pyramid — located in a courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris — and the Luce Memorial Chapel in Taiwan’s Tunghai University.

The 1963 Luce Memorial Chapel, the joint design of Pei and Chen Chi-Kwan, consists of two curved walls converging so as to appear from outside to be a pair of hands joined for prayer. It is a unique design, using progressive architectural techniques, with no internal columns, rafters or walls, exemplifying the Oriental concept of substance born from nothingness, married with concepts of Nature.

The Louvre Palace was originally constructed in 1190, first as a fortified enclosure, later repurposed as a palace. As an art gallery, however, the old building is a little dark and dank inside, and the original entrance is unsuitable for the thousands of people who visit it every day. A major reconstruction project was carried out from 1983 to 1989, with Pei in charge, and involved constructing underground facilities below the Cour Napoleon (Napoleon Courtyard). Pei’s design incorporated a giant glass pyramid rising above the courtyard, serving as an entrance but also allowing sunlight to pour in, lighting the underground area and creating a pleasant interior space. Being completely see-through, the pyramid does not intrude upon the ancient architecture surrounding it.

Pei’s design was initially met with considerable opposition from conservative opinion in France, but now the glass pyramid is regarded internationally as a classic example of 20th century architecture. Juxtaposed with the historic buildings of the Louvre Palace — the avant-garde among the traditional — it has become an iconic part of the Parisian landscape.

Pei himself has said that architecture is essentially geometry modeled by light, and believes that people and light are the two essential ingredients of his architecture, and that the interplay between them is what brings his buildings to life.

(Translated by Paul Cooper)







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