When Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei first started working on the design of Paris’ Louvre Museum, he was met with such fierce disapproval that he failed to present his ideas during a meeting with the French government.
Much of the antagonism was due to his proposal of connecting the historical museum’s three wings with a well-lit, 21-meter-high steel-and-glass pyramid. He also felt that there was a tinge of racism from the way he was treated, in spite of having won the Pritzker Prize (considered the top accolade for an architect) for designing some of the United States’ most notable structures. However, he remained unfazed, faced the criticisms head on and took everything in stride.
Pei told CNN, “These things don’t bother me. I rather enjoyed it. I remember people, an old lady spitting on the sidewalk, that venomous, so unhappy with what I did … But it all passed.”
Passed it did. Today, the Louvre is recognized all over the world not just for the Mona Lisa but also for the steel-and-glass pyramid that the French first found so abhorrent. Pei, with his affable smile and positive demeanor, remains one of architecture’s most highly regarded figures.
Last week, on April 26, tributes poured in as he celebrated his 100th birthday. Talking about his life, Pei has a simple advice to other designers who wish to follow his footsteps: “Success is a collection of problems solved.”