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I.M. Pei: Building China Modern

Building China Modern

I.M. Pei has been called the most important living modern architect, defining the landscapes of some of the world’s greatest cities.  A monumental figure in his field and a laureate of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, Pei is the senior statesman of modernism and last surviving link to such great early architects as Corbusier, Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe.   Entering into the twilight of his career and well into his eighties, Pei returns to his ancestral home of Suzhou, China to work on his most personal project to date.   He is commissioned to build a modern museum in the city’s oldest neighborhood which is populated by classical structures from the Ming and Qing dynasties.  For the architect who placed the pyramid at the Louvre, the test to integrate the new with the old is familiar but still difficult.  The enormous task is to help advance China architecturally without compromising its heritage.  In the end, what began as his greatest challenge and a labor of sentiment, says Pei, ultimately becomes “my biography.”

American Masters’s I.M. Pei: Building China Modern follows Pei on this historic journey to define China’s architectural vision as it comes into its own on the world stage.

“I.M. Pei is an architectural poet – a living legend,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters, a seven-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series.   “He’s among the league of rare American masters whose artistic sensibilities have both provoked public debate and transformed our notions of what is possible, of how tradition can be honored in the 21st century.”

The film captures Pei as he forges an architectural language that brings together Western modernity and Eastern tradition into a current synthesis.  After decades of living in the U.S. and amassing unprecedented international acclaim for his projects, Pei returns as a “foreigner” to his birth country to give a new direction for Chinese architecture in which history can live in the midst of change.  In effect, Pei, who has contributed to America’s urban landscape during the height of its architectural and engineering power is now helping China do the same.  Few architects have played such a critical dual role.

With an agenda of change, Pei inevitably enters into a crucible of conflict in Suzhou.  For those concerned about the loss of traditional forms of architectural identity, he is too modern.  For those who would simply bulldoze China’s past, he is too tradition-minded.   Adding to the already complex assignment, he faces the controversy of displacing residents living at the museum site.  To meet the design challenges, Pei draws on ideas that stretch far back within his own life and work – including a 1946 thesis project at Harvard, where he was taught abstract modern architecture.  Throughout his education and career, Pei maintains his “impossible dream” to bring together modernity and traditional, regional influences (including nature) in his work.  Eight years in the making, American Masters I.M. Pei: Building China Modern traces Pei’s pursuit of that dream and explores the defining conflicts of our age – the lure of the modern versus the pull of history.  The result is a surprisingly revealing and intimate portrait of the man who set as his goal nothing less than the redefinition of architecture in modern China.

American MastersI.M. Pei: Building China Modern is a co-production of PACEM Distribution International, LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with South Carolina ETV (SCETV), the China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC), and The New River Education Fund, Inc.  Eugene B. Shirley, Jr. is producer.  Anne Makepeace is director.  Eugene B. Shirley, Jr. and Anne Shirley are executive producers.   Caroline Courtauld and Tom Parry are co-executive producers.  Anne Makepeace and Brian Funck are writers.  Polly Kosko is executive-in-charge of production for SCETV.  Sally Jo Fifer is executive producer for ITVS.  Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.

American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Jack Rudin, Elizabeth Rosenthal in memory of Rolf W. Rosenthal, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers.

Miho MuseumMajor funding for American MastersI.M. Pei: Building China Modern is provided by Shumei and its flagship cultural institution, the Miho Museum.  Additional funding for the program is provided by Kimball Chen, Alice King, Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC, Shirley Young, Paul B.J. & Phyllis S.Y. Chu Charitable Trust, Ambrose W.H. Lam, Elaine Forsgate Marden, Grace Wu Bruce, Sir David Tang, Adeline Yen Mah and Robert A. Mah.

Production Credits Print

In Memorium
T’ing Pei

Produced by
Eugene B. Shirley, Jr.

Directed by
Anne Makepeace

Executive Producers
Eugene B. Shirley, Jr.
Anne Shirley

Co-Executive Producers
Caroline Courtauld
Tom Parry

Written by
Anne Makepeace & Brian Funck

Edited by
Brian Funck

Director of Photography
George Adams

Sound Mixer
J.E. Jack

Associate Producers
Kenneth Houchin
Mariam Jobrani

Production Manager for ITVS
Robby Fahey

Production Coordinators for CICC
Li Zhuang
Sun Haidong

Producer for CICC
Chen Zhiguo

Music Composed by
Huang Ruo
©2010 Huang Ruo (ASCAP)

Music performed by

Future In REverse (FIRE)

Charles Tyler, cello
Sheryl S Hwangbo, violin
Shelley Monroe Huang, bassoon
Emi Ferguson, flute
Matt Donello, percussion
Huang Ruo, piano

Score Recorded and Mixed by
Paul Vazquez

Recording Assisted by
Nick Miller
Recorded at
Skyline Recording Studios, NYC

Additional Music by
Ric Hordinski

Wu Man
©2010 Wu Man (ASCAP)

Yawny At The Apocalypse
Performed by Andrew Bird
Written by Andrew Bird
Courtesy of Wegawam Music Co. and Fat Possum Records
© 2007 Wegawam Music Co., Exclusively administered by Chrysalis Songs (BMI)

Graphics and Design
David Etzen @ redbar

Digital Artist
Jose Villarrubia

Special Effects
Alan Waldo

Additional Camera
Brian Dowley

Additional Sound
George Sharnacker

Robert N. Gold
John Taylor “Ike” Williams

Loeb and London

Lydia Chen
Ruey-Lung Hsiao
Xiaodong Shi
Fan Qinxue
Meijun Fan
Zhihe Wang
Binghuang Wang
Jeanette Zee

Video Research
Polly Pettit

Still Photography Research
Margaret Johnson

Archive Courtesy of
Charles Jencks
Journeyman Pictures
Bing Lin
Long Bow Group, Inc.
I.M. Pei
Pei Partnership Architects
Mei Zhang
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Victor Orlewicz
PACEM productions

Post-Production Services, SCETV

Operations Manager
Keith Galloway

Online Editor
Elaine Cooper

Online Associate Producer
Martha Fowler

Studio Mix

Special Thanks
Rebecca Adams
Michael Alexander
Kate Amend
Douglas Chang
Kay Chang
Lydia Chen
Christopher Choa
Alice Cunningham
Dana Dakin
Hope Denekamp
Herbert J. Ellison
Maxwell K. Hearn
Sara Hendren
Ruey-Lung Hsiao
Theresa Houchin
Donald Inadomi
Gillian Innes
Linda Kluz
Nadja Leonard
Cherie Liem
Bing Lin
Sheri Mobley
Maria Moran
Hiroko Nakamoto
Didi Pei
Sandi Pei
Nancy Robinson
Michael Rubin
Lilly Gray Rubin
Charles Schuerhoff
Eugene B. Shirley, Sr.
Marilyn Shirley
Glenna Stewart
Gerald Szeto
Paul Tao
Hannah B. Thompson
Andrew Walworth
Ben Wood
Cheung Man Yee
Musée du Louvre

Board of Consultants

William C. Kirby
Peter G. Rowe

Special Consultant
William C. McCahill, Jr.

Nancy Berliner
Simeon Bruner
Peter J. Carroll
Chang Tsong-zung
John B. Cobb, Jr.
Jane DeBevoise
William N. Goetzmann
Charles Jencks
Herbert I. London
Luo Xiaowei
Peter Nolan
Alan J. Plattus
Anil Seal
Helen F. Siu
Janet Adams Strong
James C.Y. Watt
Carter Wiseman
Wu Liangyong
Wu Tung
Xu Yinong

Board of Advisors

John T.L. Koh

Lucille A. Barale
Jeanette K. Chan
William Courtauld
Dana Dakin
Alice King
Ambrose W.H. Lam
Adeline Yen Mah
Shaun Rein
Dorothy E. Peterson
David W.C. Tang
Diane T. Woo
Shirley Young

Executives in Charge of Production for CICC
Guo Changjian
Li Xiangping
Yuan Lili

Executive Producer for CICC
Jing Shuiqing

Executive in Charge of Production for SCETV
Polly Kosko

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

For American Masters

Series Office Manager
William Meny

Series Production Coordinator
Elizabeth Kosakowska

Series Theme Music Composed by
Thomas Wagner

Series Title Designed by
B. T. Whitehill

Music Services
John Adams
Rosie Fishel

Series Production Manager
Jane Buckwalter

Business Affairs
Odell Nails

Series Publicist
Thirteen/WNET New York's Communications Group

Supervising Producer
Julie Sacks

Series Producer
Prudence Glass

Executive Producer
Susan Lacey

This program was produced by PACEM Distribution International, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

I.M. PEI:  BUILDING CHINA MODERN is a co-production of PACEM Distribution International, LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with South Carolina ETV (SCETV), the China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC), and New River Media.

©2010 PACEM Distribution International, LLC