10 Most Famous Architects Who Ever Lived


Ieoh Ming Pei

I.M. Pei speaks at the Ellis Island Museum in New York City in 2004.
I.M. Pei speaks at the Ellis Island Museum in New York City in 2004.
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Born in 1917 in China, Ieoh Ming Pei came to the United States in the 1930s to study architecture. However, by the time he graduated, he wasn't able to return to China due to the outbreak of World War II. Instead, he stayed in the United States, eventually becoming a citizen in 1954.

In his work, Pei strove to bring together the modern and traditional – what he calls the "impossible dream" [source: PBS]. His designs are considered a continuation of the International Style popularized by architects like Le Corbusier. However, he's also known for Brutalism, an offshoot of the International Style that uses bold forms and utilitarian principles. For instance, Pei's large, rectangular concrete blocks, like those used for his National Center for Atmospheric Research, completed in 1967, evidenced Brutalism [source: Palmer].

In the 1960s, Pei was selected to design the terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and he gained national recognition in 1974 when he designed the National Gallery of Art's East Building. He is perhaps best known for the controversial glass pyramids in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris, built in 1989.