Miami-Dade County

His iconic tower lit up the city in the 1980s. Now I.M. Pei has another milestone

A 2004 photograph of the Bank of America Tower, now known as the Miami Tower, designed by architect I.M. Pei.
A 2004 photograph of the Bank of America Tower, now known as the Miami Tower, designed by architect I.M. Pei. Miami Herald Staff

I.M. Pei, the famed master of modern architecture whose 1980s Miami Tower gave the world an iconic image for our resurgent city, turns 100 next week. And now appreciative Miamians can send him birthday wishes — and maybe win a miniature replica of one of his signature works.

Pei’s birthplace of Suzhou, China, the ancestral home of his family, is marking the architect’s centenary on April 26 with a series of live and virtual events.

Tourism officials are asking Pei fans to share a photo of a favorite Pei building, along with a birthday wish, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #IMPei100 and #TravelSouzhou starting on Thursday. A few tips: Pei also designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong and, closer to home, dorms and the student union at the New College of Florida in Sarasota.

During the week leading up to Pei’s birthday, four winners will be chosen at random to receive a mini-replica of one of his later masterworks, the Suzhou Museum. Suzhou Tourism will also be at the Boston Common on April 26 with an interactive photo setup that will allow participants to get their photo taken with a virtual Pei and then send him a digital birthday greeting.

Opened in 1987 as the CenTrust tower, Pei’s sophisticated, half-moon-shaped Miami skyscraper with an ever-changing lighting scheme became an instant architectural symbol of the city’s surging confidence as it rebounded from the social and political maelstrom of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Thirty years later, its original lights, which once required colored gels to be replaced by hand, have been upgraded to LEDs, and the Pei skyscraper remains a cherished landmark that new, taller towers around it have not yet managed to upstage.

Pei grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai but spent summers in Suzhou, an ancient city on the Yangtze River Delta near Shanghai that’s known for its temples, bridges, canals and gardens. Nine of those gardens are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Pei came to the United States to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard. He has won nearly every major architecture award, including the Pritzker Prize, in a career that has spanned more than 50 years.

Pei officially retired from the firm he co-founded, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, in 1990, but continued working on projects, including with Pei Partnership Architects, a firm started by two of his sons, into the early 2000s. He lives in New York.

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