I. M. Pei at MIT – Tech Day 1994

I. M. Pei at MIT – Tech Day 1994

speakers will, in fact, talk about a specific
relationship between mene et manus, between
art and engineering, in the world of architecture. We are very honored
today to have with us architect IM
Pei, class of 1940, formerly with the firm of
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Of course, Mr. Pei
is very well-known for many, many buildings. And I will not list them all. Some of them are particularly
important for the arts, including, of course,
the Louvre, the East Wing of the National
Gallery at Washington DC, and many MIT alums are familiar
particularly with the Meyerson Hall for the Dallas
Symphony Orchestra, a remarkable building. At MIT, Mr. Pei has not only
designed the Wiesner Building on Ames Street but the arch
to that building, which is a gateway into East Campus
as you cross Ames Street, also– not, I think coincidentally– when you are walking
toward the campus, frame his three buildings
in the main quadrangle with, in perspective,
the MIT dome overall, the three buildings on
the main campus with their very stark geometry of verticals
and horizontals, triangles and rectangles. Most recently– or not most
recently, but among Mr. Pei’s most recent works– are the Bank of
China in Hong Kong and the Four Seasons
Hotel in New York City. And I think we will be hearing
about some of these works today. Mr. Pei has also been
affiliated with MIT since 1972 as a member of the Council
for the Arts at MIT. And we appreciate his years
of membership on that group. Talking to Mr. Pei today will
be Dean William Mitchell. Dean Mitchell has been
at MIT since 1992, and he is particularly
well-known for his book, published by The MIT Press,
The Reconfigured Eye, which deals with digital
photography and, in fact, visual images that do not
represent the real world. [LAUGHING] Dean Mitchell is
working very hard in the School of Architecture to
lead the School of Architecture into the 21st century
with his Virtual Design Studios and The Design
Studios of the Future using computer technology
to create a seamless process from the initial designs
through to the communications with clients,
engineers, and others. Please help me to welcome IM
Pei and Dean William Mitchell. [APPLAUSE] MITCHELL: Redoing the Louvre– that sounds much better. Redoing the Louvre
is an extraordinarily large and complex project
involving technical problems, organizational problems,
political problems, certainly, problems of very complex
cultural symbolism. So what we thought
we’d do today is to ask Mr. Pei to describe
a little bit of his thought processes, what the problem
was about, the solution that he finally derived. And then, we’ll take some
time to discuss this truly magnificent project. So Mr. Pei. PEI: Professor Morrison talked
about hundreds of centuries. I’m talking today on the
subject of the Louvre about eight centuries,
the history of 800 years. But these are very important 800
years for the French, at least. [LAUGHTER] It’s the building of the period
during which French nation was born. It’s a period that,
I would say, that’s roughly parallel the
recent French history. In fact, it’s also a wonderful
symbol for them, at least, of French civilization. So therefore, the problem of
the Louvre for the architect is not just a technical
problem, architectural problem. But it’s a problem that
has many, many challenges. I would like to start
off by telling you something about the
history of the Louvre. Now, I don’t have too
much time, but I’ll try to make it very brief
and, therefore, incomplete. It started in 1202 by, I think
that you can call him a French King, Philippe Auguste,
who built this fortress on the right side of the sand
to protect the Ile-de-France, which is now the Il de la
Cité, which is the place where the heart of French life at
that time in Paris took place. It was built as a fortress,
le donjon, as they call it. And it’s important
because I wish I’d taken some slides to show
you what it is like today. But anyway, it was
a wonderful building where they put prisoners,
where they put ammunition. It’s a very important
place to protect, let’s say, something
that they considered to be very important. It lasted as a donjon,
or as a fortress, for roughly, I would
say, maybe 200 years. It did not become really
a place for the Kings to live in until about
the end of 14th century. And I think Charles V was the
king that one should remember. Because that’s the
beginning of Louvre, not only as a place for the
king to live in but also the beginning of French art. The first library
of France was there, and the collection of many,
many objects of Charles V was displayed there. Now, for how many
years since then– 1400 to today? I would say 500
years, 600 years. Nearly all the French kings that
you know of of any importance have either lived there,
died there, married there, and born there. So therefore, it’s
an important place. So therefore, this is
not really surprising that when someone like myself– I guess I can consider myself
an American of Chinese descent– has to tamper with a
very important part of French history. So I’m going to go
through this in two phases to show you what I went through. Phase one lasted five
years, from 1983– six years– to 1989. And during those
six years, the plan was laid, how to deal
with the problem. It’s a very complex problem. And the pyramid was built. But before the pyramid was
built, we had a lot of trouble. We wasted two years. It’s a media that I had
to deal with at that time. And I was totally unprepared. And my French language is just
not adequate for that purpose. But I had to deal
with the media to try to convince the French that
this was the right thing to do. So therefore, even though
it took six years, but only four of those six
years were devoted to architecture and the
building of the phase one. Now, phase two is
less spectacular in the sense of
public information but is perhaps the more
important of the two. Because it completed a
wing called Richelieu. And without that wing, there
would be no Louvre today. And we couldn’t get
that wing until 1985. The wing– I tell
you what the wing is. The wing was occupied by
the Ministry of Finance ever since, oh, I would
say Napoleon III. [LAUGHTER] Only 200 years– 150 years. No, less– 1856– 150 years, yes. And they refused to move. [LAUGHTER] And at that time, the
pyramid is already discussed. And people say, OK,
if you must have it. Yes, Mitterrand must want it. OK. But I said, look
here, there’s no point to build the pyramid if we don’t
have the Ministry of Finance. So that gave the president
another headache. [LAUGHTER] But long story short, we
moved them out in 1989. So the second phase is the
building of the Richelieu wing. It’s architecturally not,
of course, spectacular but very important. Because why? Because I have to
keep the facade. The only thing I
could do is inside. And we demolish
everything inside except a big suite of
Second Empire rooms– very beautiful rooms,
you must go and see it– and two or three staircases. And the rest of Richelieu
was completely gutted. So it was a major
engineering project but not very spectacular, except there
are some interesting things inside, which you will
see when you come. So because of time, I’m going
to start with phase one quickly. MITCHELL: You have
your slide changer. PEI: Oh, yes. I’m going to have to
learn how to use this. MITCHELL: Press the top there. PEI: Nope. Oh, yeah. MITCHELL: Yes. And this one for the other side. This one here. PEI: Excuse me. MITCHELL: We have to sort
out the technology here. PEI: Oh. Oh, I see. MITCHELL: There we go. PEI: Oh, I see. Now I understand. OK. Now Louvre, as you
know it, perhaps without too much debate among
architects and planners, is perhaps the most important
urban composition in the world today. There’s no other that
can compare with it. It’s history– 800
years in the building. It started as a
fortress and then was added on by kings after kings. But the important
kings to remember that built the
Louvre are probably, I would say, Charles V,
Francis I, Henry II, Henry IV, Louis XIII, Louis
XIV, and eventually, Napoleon I and Napoleon III. And there are many other kings
in between that added something to it. But those were the
important kings. And it can also be
said that, perhaps, every important French
architect– nearly every, from Lescot to Mansart to
Le Vau under Louis XIV– many, many others– and then
eventually Lefuel, Visconti– they all participated
in the building of it. So therefore, it’s
not surprising that if you come into this
wonderful complex that’s already formed and to try
to do something with it. Now, the reasons why something
had to be done to the Louvre is for the reason that you
know, that it was built first as a fortress, and
it was added on and added on to try to make
it more comfortable for king after king. And to turn it into
a museum in 1793, the convention is a
move that was correct– interesting– because
it became Louvre. It became a public museum for
the first time 200 years ago. But it was not at all
suitable for a museum because it was meant for
life, for kings to live in. So the Louvre has never
really worked as a museum. I was there for the first
time on a fellowship– not MIT but Harvard fellowship. [LAUGHTER] I did receive MIT fellowship,
but it was during the war. I couldn’t do anything with it. I live across the
street from the Louvre in a very tiny, little hotel. And I went over there
every day to look at it. And I’ll tell you,
in those years, you really have to have time
to see the Louvre because you get lost in it and you don’t
know where anything was. And there are no
toilets, no restaurants– nothing of that sort. But it had a
wonderful collection, and you have to go back time and
time again to find surprises. And that was the way Louvre was
to all of you, to many others, until something
happened in 1989. So therefore, Louvre is a
wonderful complex of buildings. But Louvre Museum was not. Louvre Museum happened to
be a tenant in the Louvre. That’s all. It was occupied by the
Ministry of Culture running the Museum of France. It was occupied by the
Ministry of Finance, occupied by many, many others. Louvre Museum occupy a long,
long wing along the Seine. And it’s about, I would
say, 800 meters long. And that wing was
almost impossible to go from one end to the
other without going up and down and there. So therefore, most people
who went to the Louvre, as I did, probably only
saw, maybe, 25% of it. And the rest, you just miss. You have to have a guide. And I didn’t have a guide. So therefore, I had to
go back time and time again to find new
things, new surprises. So Louvre did not
work as a museum. And the French knew it. But they wanted, finally,
under Mitterrand, to do something about it. And the one move that was
perhaps the most important move of all I mentioned earlier. It was the recapturing
of the Richelieu wing from the Ministry of Finance. [LAUGHTER] Now, this is perhaps
not a very good slide. I apologize. But you can see the
importance of Louvre in the heart of Paris. Because it’s situated perhaps
in the most important– really in center– heart of Paris. And yet, it separated the
left bank from the right bank. There’s no way to
penetrate except by car from left bank, which is
below to the right bank. So it became,
actually, a barrier. And that became an urban design
problem of first magnitude. Because we have to
open up the Louvre. To open up the Louvre, then you
rejoin the two parts of Paris, not by car– you can always drive
around– but on foot. And this is one of
the challenges that is least talked about but
has, in my opinion, the most important. The access of the Louvre leads
all the way to Saint-Germain. And it all, probably,
is, again, when I say the most important
urban composition, I really should say that
it’s the most important axis of the world. There’s no axis
like that that leads all the way from the
Louvre to Saint-Germain. It went through the Garden of
the Louvre, which you all know, Place de La Concorde, up
Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe and then on to La
Défense and then La Défense [? beyond. ?] Now, this is a
diagram of the Louvre to show you the gray area on top
was occupied by the Ministry of Finance. [LAUGHTER] The ochre, the yellowish
color wing, 800 meters long– half a mile long– occupied not just by the
museum, by the museum and by the museum
administration of France. And French bureaucracy, I tell
you, takes up a lot of space. [LAUGHTER] So it’s not all museum. You can see that people come
by one side of the courtyard and enter there
while you’re waiting in line if you’re lucky– a good day. You don’t mind,
but then you’ll be pestered by people trying to
sell you all kinds of things that you don’t want. But nonetheless, the people– three million people–
continue to come. Why? For this collection. But you really have
to go through, really, a very uncomfortable
experience in the process. Now, what I saw
at that time when I was asked by the
French government to say, can you do something
about the museum? I said, I don’t know. But anyway, I’ll try. And the one thing that
became apparent to me, when I look at this problem,
I said the Ministry of Finance has to go. [LAUGHTER] And I said, the
reason is simple. I said, when you want to
build a modern museum, Louvre, why it is not a modern museum– for simple reason. And that is in modern museum– which I knew well then because
I finished the National Gallery already– about 50% of exhibit
space has to be matched by 50% of supporting spaces– reserve, conservation
laboratories, restaurants, auditorium, lecture halls,
public reception spaces, toilets, things like
that– which it did have– tiny little toilets. In fact, I remember very
well that when I went there, I frequently had to leave
the Louvre because I have to find a place to go. And then, when you
leave the Louvre, some people don’t
come back again. [LAUGHTER] So they lost a lot of people. And it’s not really surprising
that the average stay of visitors to the Louvre
is only one hour and a half, whereas the National Gallery
is three and a half hours. Metropolitan Museum–
about the same. So I said that the
key to making Louvre function as a museum is to
change the Louvre from 800 meter long– up and down, up and down– to something very compact. But you can give up this
wing, the floor where the Spanish paintings were– or still are– and
give it to other uses. But you must move the
Louvre to that part. And that way, you
accomplish two things, which is essential to making
Louvre Museum function. Number one, you can
excavate that court– which is in gray area– the Napoleon court. We can go down two levels. It goes to the
level of the Seine, which is about 10 meters down. You can go down two levels. And you can recapture half a
million square feet of space just by excavating that. And why not? You can use that
space for reserve. You can use that space
for all the infrastructure support that a
modern museum needs. Because under the old Louvre,
there’s no foundation. There’s no space. They have some pipes
and that’s about all. But nothing there– there’s
some sewers that go through. But that is the key
to making the Louvre into the modern museum. Second reason is that if you
put the center of the Louvre not on one side, down
below, but really in the middle of that
gray area, you’ve got the center of gravity
of the Louvre right there. And from that point, you
can go to the three wings. Louvre had three wings. Do you know? Venus de Milo is there,
and Mona Lisa is there. And to Richelieu and to
Sully, very short distance– not 800 meters anymore. It’s going to be only
about something that’s 50 meters, the difference so
that you can divide Louvre into, really, three parts, even
though they’re interconnected upstairs– three
parts, and each part is at least several days’ visit. So a big museum, you
may wonder whether you need a museum this size. But be that as it may,
it’s a big museum, and that’s the only way
to solve the problem. So therefore, I
told the president, I said, you’ve got
to do two things. You’ve got to let us
dig under the court. Because there may
be relics there. The project could have
been stopped if they found something important there. And then, you also
have to find a way to move the Ministry of Finance. [LAUGHTER] At this point, it’s not
so funny at that time. [LAUGHING] But this tells you something
about the man who is still the president of France. I don’t know of
any heads of state in the world that has the kind
of breadth of understanding of the history and
culture not only of France but of the world. He’s really a remarkable man. He may not be the
greatest politician. I don’t know. Time will tell. But he was and he is a really
exceptional leader when it comes to art and culture. And I could not have done
anything there without him. That’s obvious. The court, before we
did anything with it, was a parking lot. It’s a parking lot for the
bureaucrats that occupied the Ministry of Finance. [LAUGHTER] The court, after excavation– one year, archaeologists were
digging, really, literally, with brushes. And they found
things, all right, but nothing terribly important. Because this court,
unlike the court which I wish I had slides to
show you with the marvelous donjon foundation,
is now on display, which, when you
go there, you see. This court was inhabited by
people who served the kings. They’re bakers. They’re cobblers. There’s a little church. And that’s about all. And therefore, there’s
nothing that is so important that they say stop. We were very fortunate. From ’84 to ’85,
that year, we were waiting to see what happened. We wish they discover nothing. And the archaeologists,
of course, wish they had found something. But anyway, they found
nothing of importance, and we proceeded to
get the green light. Now, here I want to show you
the organization of the Louvre. This is the court. The rest of the
Louvre’s not shown here. It’s only the Napoleon Court. By putting an object– something– in the
center of this court– let’s say Napoleon Court– you can connect
the three pavilions in a very short and direct
way and very understandable. You can see it. When you are in the court
or in the hall below, you can look out, and you
can see Denon, Richelieu, and Sully. And that clarity of orientation
is key to a big museum. This is an urban study. So to try to ventilate
Paris, you must first ventilate the Louvre. To ventilate the Louvre, you
have to do several things. You can come over from the left
bank over Pont des Arts, which is a pedestrian bridge– a wonderful bridge,
architecturally. From engineering point of
view, it’s a wonderful bridge. And then you enter into Cour
Carrée and then turn left. But you have to do two things
in order to make it truly open. One is that you have to open
that passage under Richelieu, called Passage Richelieu,
to lead you to the Place du Palais-Royale, which is right– and then, from then
on, to Palais-Royale, and then to Pompidou
Center, which you know. The second thing
that you must also do is to open up the garden. A new bridge is
being built. I think it’s about to start construction
here so that you can walk from Orsay, which is where
the wonderful Impressionist collection is today, from Orsay
all the way to the Louvre. And that will open
up the Louvre. And once that Louvre is opened
up, it no longer is a barrier. It becomes a connector. This was a drawing done
by Steve, who’s here, Steve [? Oves. ?] I show this
drawing to the president. And he was not shocked. Perhaps he was the only
man that was not shocked. But when I show it to the
press, they were shocked. And I tell you, from
that point on, as I say, 18 months of just nothing
but harassment by the media. But still, we got
the green light. And the president, as
well as his official, who was in charge of the
Louvre– an important man, Biasini– said, let’s dig. Because the archaeologists
has already said it’s OK. Let’s dig. And this was what you see. And that was the beginning
of another furor and people demonstrating and everything
except they didn’t do anything really serious
like committing suicide and like that, but very close– very close. There were a few. [LAUGHTER] Now I’m going to go
quickly because of time. Quickly, to show you how
the building process did. And the building of this
palace was remarkably fast. The French contractors
are incredibly good. They’re very, very good. These are slides that
shows the construction. This is Napoleon
Court, by the way. This is not the rest. It’s only one part– the important part. This is the part where
the pyramid must emerge. And the square grid that you
see, the structural steel member there, they’re
all on bearings. It can move. [CHUCKLING] It can move. And they’re supported on
four columns, and that’s all. We had about 60 or some slides
because from one vantage point, they took pictures
every so many months. But I’m only showing you a few. So that’s very quick. But it took– [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] Thank you. It took 18 months
to reach this stage. And at this point, I would
say, it’s the end of phase one. It was open in spring 1989. And Mitterrand was
there to cut the ribbon. And it was rather
well-received by then. But still I would say
there were, maybe, 30% or 40% people still
not very happy with it and for any number of reasons. But nevertheless, it was built. And since this is MIT, I thought
I have to bring this slide. If I show it to
another audience, they would not be
interested in it. And I’m going to show
you some of the slides of the construction. But one thing that
should also interest you that the French government
make no secret of it, they want everything
to be made in France. And the only exception,
which I asked the president to allow us, is to have all
the tension elements made in Massachusetts by a small
rigging company that did the America’s Cup, the yachts. I don’t know whether
Bill Coke is here or not but he would know. [APPLAUSE] And we are the best. And I showed him some
samples of the rigging, how the 10 buckles fit into
the cable and all that. And he was fascinated with it. And because he liked it so
much that he didn’t even bother to say, is there a
French equivalent to it? We just say, go ahead. So we did it. And on the other hand,
the glass problem. You see, glass has to be
white, has to be clear. If the glass is not clear– this is laminated, you
know, it’s double layer. It’s very thick. It’s about almost
3/4 of an inch thick. If it’s not clear,
it will be green. And you will see it through
the corner of this glass. It will be very dark
green, bottle green. So therefore, that is not
acceptable because the Louvre, you see, the composition
of the Louvre must be seen. And the ochre color stone
shouldn’t look green. So therefore, I requested
the French manufacturer, Saint-Gobain, to
make this glass. They say no. We no longer make them. And then, finally,
they say, well, if you built 1000 pyramids,
we’ll make them for you. So I didn’t report
this to the president. I went to a German
firm, Schott Glass. I say, can you make it? Yes, we can. Saint-Gobain said,
we’ll make it. [LAUGHTER] I’m going to go very quickly– the making of the pyramid. The pyramid has one virtue. It’s a very stable form. You know that. And consequently, it requires
the least amount of steel in order to support it. And consequently, if you
use the finest technology available to you,
technologically, to build it, it will be the most
transparent form. And it must be the
most transparent form because you want to
see that composition. That composition is so
important to the world, not just to France, So you may ask, do you need
something that projects? Many architects in
France, as well as abroad, suggested, why not just have
a glass sheet on the ground, and you bring light
in just as well? But I said, no. I said, you have to have space. You go into the lower level 10
meters down, nine meters down, and you don’t want to
have a glass ceiling. That word may mean
something to some. [LAUGHING] You don’t want a glass ceiling. You want space. And so something has to project. And I defended the pyramid. And the pyramid, for those
of you who know France, is a very important
symbol to French. I think the French are probably
more conscious of pyramid as a form than any other people
because of Napoleon, I guess. They really went to Egypt. They took a lot of
things away from Egypt. So the pyramid form is
necessary to give you space. So give you light, give you
space, but at the same time, transparent. You can see through it. And also, you need a symbol. Because if this is going
to be the main entrance to the Louvre, it cannot
be just a subway entrance, so simply cannot be. Glass was put in this manner. And for a long time,
there was a debate. Can you clean the glass? And we tried different ways. They hired some Indians
from Canada to clean it. They even tried robot. Eventually, we clean by robot. But finally, we
got some alpinist to get up there, hang the rope
from the tip of the pyramid, and wash it. And it only took
two days to wash it. But now, it took less. Now, one day is all we need. So the washing problem
no longer a problem. But for a while, that
became also a problem. Because the French want to find
any reason to object to it. And cleaning the pyramid
also kept us quite involved. Now, you’re inside the space. And you can see the Louvre. You can see the
Louvre through it. Ah. That was D-day. [LAUGHING] But no booing– no booing. Lots of applause, no booing. Ah. I like that photograph. You don’t see anything. There’s a story
about this statue. During Louis XIV’s time– I’m short of time. I would try to go quickly. Louis XIV’s time, they invited– and this shows that in those
years, the kings of France are already very
cultured people– he invited Bernini
from Rome to come. Bernini had just finished the
St. Peter’s arcade, that wing that enclosed that space. Perhaps [INAUDIBLE],,
he and Borromini were the two most important
architects of that time. And the French king
wanted the best, so he invited Bernini
to come to do something in the back of the Louvre–
not the this part– in the back of the Louvre. And he was there six months. And he did not survive
the French architects. And the only thing he left
behind– there a few things he left behind,
not of importance. But the only big thing
that he left behind is a statue of Louis XIV. But that was made in Rome,
and it was shipped to France afterwards. But Louis XIV never liked it
because his image at that time was 25 years ago. He was a young man then. He’s no longer young. So he banish it to Versailles,
and it remained there. And because it was not known,
it was never vandalized and never broke– I mean it was never
destroyed during the war because they just left there. But it was marble. It was vandalized by
a man from Brittany– anarchist, I guess– and
no longer salvageable. But I persuaded the
conservator of Versailles to let us make a cast of it– the only way. And they did. And it’s made in lead. And I thought, we should
put it there to remember him as someone who tried. [LAUGHTER] But that very important,
that location. I needed something there
to terminate the access of Chance-Élysées because
that axis of Le Notre– the Le Notre axis– was not terminated at Louvre. Because the Louvre is a
little bit like this– like this. So it has to be terminated–
not by the pyramid, by something else, and
something that’s strong. And I was fearful of
commissioning a French sculptor at that time. You don’t know what’s
going to happen. I’m perfectly frank about it. You just don’t know what– so that was my escape
from responsibility. Now, the second
phase of the Louvre– not spectacular, not
at all polemical, but extremely important. Because now, it opened
only a few months ago. If you go there
now, you understand why the pyramid was put
there in the first place. And I think the vindication
of the whole plan is now made possible through
the completion of this wing. And for that reason, even
though architecturally, it’s not spectacular because
the facade had to be kept and everything has
to be internalized, done inside– number
two I had to work with two French architects,
which is reasonable. Because after all,
I can’t hog it all. Now, you see under
the Napoleon Court, and this is what it looks like. This is 10 meters below ground. You go up three sets of
escalators to a intermediate level– still below ground– and you can enter into the
three wings of the Louvre. And the fourth wing,
going this way, goes to shops,
parking, bus terminal. Eventually, all the buses
that you see on Rue de Rivoli, as well as on the
[? Quai, ?] will disappear, as they have now. They’re all underground now. So urbanistically, that’s
another very important contribution. And below, at this lower
level, we have auditorium. We have restaurants. We have a reception area
for the young people. And we have a bookstore–
enormous bookstore– and the shops and meeting
rooms and conference center. Everything is there. But below this level,
it’s all circulation. There is at truckway that
connect all the departments underground. And there’s a large reserve
so that all the collection– nearly all the collection of the
Louvre– now comes back home. Now, we have to talk briefly
about Richelieu wing, even though,
architecturally, as I say, it’s not very spectacular. The two courts were proposed
way back to be covered. They were parking and trucking
for the Ministry of Finance before, so not used. By covering it, we can
turn it into an exhibition space for French sculpture. And further, we also proposed
to dig down below the Richelieu wing, as you see, so
that the two courts are connected at the lower level. And this was a
trucking area, which now become exhibition
area for French sculpture. This wing house
four departments– the sculpture department,
the oriental antiquities department, the objet
d’art, which is probably the most important objet
d’art collection in the world, and paintings. I put this in mostly,
again, because this is MIT. This is a pyramid, about
50 feet square, inverted. Why inverted? Because its positioned
at the place where the circular rotary is. And you don’t want to see any
projection there coming up. Because one pyramid
is quite enough. But to use the same theme– and we wanted to
bring light in– this is the intersection. If you go to the bus
terminal, to the parking, and to the shops, you have
to go through this point. So therefore, it’s
nice to have something to make people feel they’re
still in the Louvre. So now, this suspended pyramid
is a major engineering project. It was designed by
a man, Peter Rice of Arup Associates in London. And too bad I don’t
have the drawings. It’s actually a very
brilliant design. The whole thing, there are only
four rods in the center, all suspended. And the rest are all cables. It’s cables and four
rods, and that’s all. And it has one other
very exciting byproduct. [LAUGHTER] Clearly, I was very proud of it. Another very important
byproduct of this is the prismatic
effect of the glass. You see the glass,
because we don’t have to keep water
or rain out of this. Because inside, we can
polish the edges of the glass and bevel it. By beveling it, the spectrum
of the colors came out. So at times you see,
a sunny day like this, it’s just a rainbow inside. It’s really quite spectacular. If you go there, make sure you
go there on a good, sunny day. Now, the Richelieu
wing, there was one thing has to be done
to the Richelieu wing. Because it’s about the
painting collection is perhaps the most important
French painting collection in the world– not
perhaps, definitely. And yet, people don’t go there. Because the French
conservators want it upstairs because of daylight. They are very, very
insistent on using daylight– our conservators are less so– very insistent. And for that reason, they
take the attic space. They have a ceiling
not very high. But to get up there,
you have to walk up 75 feet, vertical space. And most people
don’t walk up there. So they miss a lot of visitors. I was told only about, maybe at
the most, 10% or 15% of people go up to the top floor. And that’s a great pity. So I proposed to
put in escalators. I hate to do that. It’s a 19th century
building, and you don’t install
something like that unless you have a good reason. That was a big battle. But it was won. And today, nobody disagree
that it’s absolutely needed. Because otherwise,
the interconnection up and vertically, it’s
very, very difficult. This is objet d’art. I show you the
sculpture actually. I show you the object d’art. These are the Maximilian
tapestries, never shown before– no place to show it. Now, they have a place. And it’s a must. The Maximilian tapestries
are a must to see. They are very dimly lit because
of the color of the threads. Now, before I go
into this, this work here was done by architect
Willmotte of France– of Paris, France. And my role in the
Sculpture Garden and this is what they call,
really, a [INAUDIBLE].. It’s sort of like a coordinator. I participated in all
the decision-making. I chose them as my architects. I had that responsibility. But they should get
the credit for it. Now, this was old Louvre. The lighting of paintings is a
really, a very special science. It really is. And it’s extremely important. It’s never studied enough. It just hasn’t been. We don’t have good daylight
galleries in America. We don’t have it in
the National Gallery. We don’t have it in the
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. They’re all like this. They are laylights
with skylight on top, even though it could have
been artificially lit, and you wouldn’t
know the difference. And another disadvantage is that
the skylight is very bright. And therefore, the
brightest is the ceiling. The second brightest
is the floor. The walls, where you want
the light to be, looks dark. And consequently,
we decided this is something we want to
do a piece of research on. And I think one of the
major breakthrough, I consider, in this
wing is in the lighting. The lighting solution is this. We make the ceiling
into three layers. The first layer’s glass,
skylight, with a UV filter, of course. And then, below the
glass is an egg crate. And egg crate is
carefully calculated so that the orientation
is such so no direct sun rays will come in. It would have been better
if they were movable. Because then we get good light
all year round, all seasons. Unfortunately, the
French have experience with maintenance crew. They say it won’t work here. [LAUGHTER] And they are right. They’re right. So we use fixed louvers that
don’t have to be touched. We cut off a lot of
light– a lot more light than we wanted to. But it does remove the
headaches of the [INAUDIBLE] that was doing that job. And the reason of
the big cross is that people have to walk there. So it has to be wide
enough for people to walk, to clean, to relamp,
and that sort of thing. But you can see the sky if
you are walking on one side. But the light, as you see,
now is deflected to the walls. It’s no longer coming
down to the floor. So the walls now are bright. And they get light. And that is turned
out to be something that– the French conservatives
are very conservative, and they accepted this. And they now claim this
is the best in the world. They have to– something
has to be, always. And this, they like. And this is a very
important suite of paintings by Rubens
celebrating Marie de’ Medici’s journey and eventually
to apotheosis. All the way, and
you can see again, the light is no longer
bright on the ceiling. It’s directed to the walls. And this is another
version of it. This is octagonal room. That’s a long room. And the previous one, I
think, is a square room. And this is the way
the light looks– no reflection, no reflection. I guarantee you that– no reflection. All right. Richelieu wing was
finished in November, open in November 1993, exactly
200 years after the founding of the Louvre. And the Richelieu wing, together
with the Napoleon Court, is now complete. And therefore, Louvre
finally functions as the way we had planned to. And some of these
slides are mostly to show you what it looks
like when it’s all finished. And young lady is
celebrating the event. So there you are. I think that’s– oh. I’ve used up too much time. Well, sorry. [APPLAUSE] I’m sorry.

10 thoughts on “I. M. Pei at MIT – Tech Day 1994

  1. RIP Mr. Pei. You will be greatly missed.
    3:44 Mr. Pei talks about his experiences, challenges, and ideas in redoing the Louvre.
    32:20 LOVE this bit of Mr. Pei talking about his glass problem and how he solved it.
    37:19 Very few (almost no one?) would have guessed why the statue was put there!

  2. Respect to the legendary of architecture mastermind and influential of maximizing in utilization the space, lighting, fine arts of building appearances, advanced ideas and many more. You created an era of civilization left for human kind in aged 102. RIP IM Pei.

  3. What a remarkable project, process and architect. Thanks for sharing this wonderful presentation. I need to visit Louvre again to appreciate everything Mr. Pei described.

  4. On a separate note, I do admire and respect how French people value their art and history. Majority of the modern buildings, developments in Paris are outskirts of the heart of city, e.g. la defense.

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