Look around you. What kinds of buildings do you see? Whether they are huge skyscrapers or state capitols, high-rises or homes, buildings define our cities and towns. You probably remember some famous buildings you have seen in person or in pictures because of their unique features. But have you ever wondered who designed those buildings? Architects design places to live, work, and play. Your school was designed by an architect, and your house probably was, too! An architect is part artist, creating visually interesting structures, and part mathematician. Not all beautiful designs can actually be constructed without falling down, and math can help an architect avoid this problem.
One of the most famous architects of our era is I. M. Pei. Pei was born in China in 1917. In his native Chinese, his first name, Ieoh Ming, means "to inscribe brightly." Little did his parents realize that the name they gave him would prove to be an accurate one!
If you have ever seen any of the following famous buildings, you've seen Pei's work: the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; Le Grand Louvre in Paris, France; the Bank of China in Hong Kong; the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York; the Texas Commerce Tower in Houston; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio; and the John Hancock Tower in Boston.
Have you ever tried to design something? Whether you try your hand at drawing designs for CD covers or sketching buildings, you know that shapes are important in what you are trying to create. I. M. Pei often uses large, abstract, and geometric forms made of glass in his designs, like the pyramid shape of the entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris. His architecture is often described as "striking."
I. M. Pei's designs have sometimes been controversial. During construction of the John Hancock Tower, some residents of Boston complained that it was too flashy and modern for the historic city. They were worried that the tower would overshadow the city's Trinity Church and other historic sites. But the critics were wrong. Today, the 62-story John Hancock Tower is described as one of the most beautiful buildings in the Boston skyline. Who knows? Maybe some of your sketches can prove the critics wrong and change cities' skylines tomorrow!