Tonight on PBS, I.M. Pei Finds Life Reflection in Return to China
Tonight on PBS, American Masters follows architect I.M. Pei back to the hometown he left as a young man, to design a new, modern museum for the city of Suzhou, China.
At 92, Pei is one of the last leading figures of modern architecture still living and working. Early on, the film takes him back to one of his most famous designs, the Louvre Pyramid, a then-unorthodox alteration to the prized art museum that initially upset Parisians. The architect admits that if he were a Parisian, he might have been upset, too.
Later, when filmming has moved to China — to Pei’s hometown — and construction on the new museum is about to begin, the city’s mayor says he suspects that Pei is a little bit like a doctor tasked with operating on a family member — more nervous than if it were on a stranger.
The documentary traces the project from initial plans and gentle negotiations with city officials, through groundbreaking and finally opening in 2006. It also traces Pei’s life, including his time studying architecture at Harvard, where he first sought to unite Western modernism with Chinese naturalism.
I.M. Pei: Building China Modern airs on PBS tonight. Check your local listings for the time.
Watch a preview of the documentary: