IM Pei’s Grande Louvre receives AIA 25-year award

The American Institute of Architects has honoured IM Pei‘s renovation of the Musée du Louvre in Paris with an award during the organisation’s national convention, the same week that the Chinese-American architect is celebrating his 100th birthday.

The project, which includes the steel and glass pyramids in the central courtyard of the former palace, received the AIA 2017 25 Year Award.

Photograph by Flickr user petunia2323

The prize is given annually to a building that “has stood the test of time for 25-35 years, and continues to set standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance”.

Following the announcement made in December 2016, the award was accepted at the conference today by Pei’s son Chien Chung and George Miller, partner at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, on behalf of their father and colleague, who turned 100 on 26 April 2017.

Photograph by Flickr user Ernest McGray, Jr.

“He wanted me to thank you for this,” said Chien Chung Pei. “It’s really – I think – the ultimate compliment…for contemporary architecture that it is a 25 year award… Not to downplay the other awards, but after 25 years, you really know whether it has withstood the test of time.”

“He’s in top shape, and he’s looking forward to his birthday party,” he added. To celebrate Pei’s centenary, we published a list of 10 of his most significant projects, which included Le Grande Louvre.

Photograph by Flickr user sylvain.collet

Completed in 1989, project involved the renovation and expansion of the largest art museum in the world.

Pei was chosen for the project in 1983, and was the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre. His scheme proved highly contentious with both the museum’s leadership and the public at the time.

Photograph by Flickr user sylvain.collet

“It was a difficult project,” said Miller, who compared it to the Eiffel Tower, which was also extremely controversial when it was built 100 years before.

Le Grande Louvre involved the construction of a large pyramid in the museum’s Cour Napoleon, forming a new entryway into a subterranean concourse below the courtyard.

Photograph by Flickr user sylvain.collet

On the surface, the structure is surrounded fountains and three smaller pyramids, which also help to bring light into the underground foyer.

Hidden from view at street level but clearly evident below is an inverted glass pyramid that does the same job.

Photograph by Flickr user Masoud Najari

The intervention was intended to serve between one and two million visitors daily, but now accommodate between 10 and 12 million each day.

“One of the things that is so important about that project is the fact that it’s really stood the test of time,” Miller said. “It has really been able to serve the public in an effective way.”

The 2017 AIA national convention is taking place from 27-29 April at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Keynote addresses at the event have included a talk by former US first lady Michelle Obama, who urged architects to take on more community projects in poorer parts of cities.

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