Monday, 23 June 2014

I M Pei - I salute you - again

Back in 2011 during my early blogging attempts (pre Musings) I saluted the extraordinary I M Pei. This celebrated Chinese-born architect has recently been awarded the 2014 International Union of Architects Gold Medal, considered the highest architectural honour as it is awarded by one's peers. The amazing Pei - now a mere 97 years young - was born in Guangzhou and educated at Harvard (see my earlier post on Harvard here) His achievements include the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, the John F Kennedy library in Boston, the meandering Miho Museum in Japan and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar - a building designed to house a collection rather than a building where the collection is made to fit - so that piece is shown in magnificent spaces that are truly exotic in their simplicity!  So it's time once again to salute this 'living treasure'.
An elegant and upright I M Pei on the cover of the MIA Museum book
You may have seen a TV special which seems to have been shown a number of times over the last  few years on the creation of the museum. I happened to see it while ironing - anything for a diversion - and I made a pact with myself (!) that I would find a way to see it. The opportunity came and I grabbed it, visiting Doha in 2011. It blew me away. Since then I've encouraged friends to visit and they've all agreed that it is something special. You can either fly to Europe using the 'dreaded' Qatar Airlines or by taking a short sidetrip to Doha from Dubai, Abu Dhabi or elsewhere. It's certainly worth considering.
The Burqua-like facade

Now as an aside I mention the 'dreaded' Qatar Airlines. It has nothing to do with their safety record but it has everything to do with their response after I won two tickets to fly anywhere world-wide with them. Imagine my excitement. I'd never even won a chook raffle in the past! Sadly this is the airline that congratulates you for winning and then finds every reason for you not to use the tickets. It took months to receive the terms and conditions and then another 2 months to plead where in their network they would honour the prize before it ran out! By that stage we were 'over' each other. They did everything to ensure that flying with them was the last thing I ever want to do in the future. An aisle seating request due to a knee issue = middle seat. Gluten free = never heard of my request and never actioned when they had! Still a visit to wonderful Venice was worth all the angst (see earlier posts here, here, here, here and here !!).

But I digress! Let's get back to the extraordinary I M Pei because on all fronts I salute you:
  • I salute you for your vision and architectural genius
  • I salute you for staying true to your belief by not entering architectural competions
  • I salute you for accepting the offer to design the Doha Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Qatar when the competition's winning design did not go ahead
  • I salute you for holding your vision regarding the location for the MIA - you insisted that it must be built on its own island so that it stands proudly in all its simple glory
  • I salute you for spending 6 months touring the world in order for in your words to “grasp the essence of Islamic Architecture”. The journey took you from Iberia in Spain as far east as Mughal India and to the gates of China before finally finding that ‘essence’ in the central courtyard of the Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo
  • I salute you for finding that at Ahmad Ibn Tulun you found that severe architecture comes to life in the sun, with its shadows and shades of colour and that it offered an almost Cubist expression of geometric progression - the key design elements of Islamic architecture.
  • I salute you for even considering coming out of retirement to design MIA. After all you were born in 1917 – making you just 90 at the time!
  • I salute you for designing so many buildings in your extraordinarily long career - some famous and some not so famous - including Melbourne’s Collins Place – now home to the Sofitel Hotel
  • I salute you for choosing the Paris-based Interior Designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte who you have worked with on a number of other projects (including the Louvre). Together you have changed the way Museums display their collections. Incidentally Wilmotte has just completed the renovation of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (I'll need to put this on my 'list')
  • I salute you for the simplicity of the design which seems to incorporate the ‘burqua eyes’ even though you say that this was not your intention
  • I salute you for creating a sense of peace, calm, coolness and tranquility when outside the temperature is a mere 40++ degrees (great for playing World Cup soccer in 2022!!!)
  • I salute you for creating such wonderful angles throughout the building and for the magical light which fills the foyer
  • I salute you for ensuring that your building (opened in 2008) becomes a ‘must see’ not only for the stunning Islamic Art on display but also for what you have accomplished
  • I salute you for leaving those who visit with a sense of awe at what you achieved and how it has been executed. Every visitor will know they have been privileged to see the work of an architectural ‘living treasure’
So come on a visit of the museum with me:
Looking across from the island to high-rise, high-rise, high-rise
Stair detail inside
Nothing out of place and everything 'in keeping'
Sweeping staircases and suspended lightfittings above
No dusty old stone columns here - lit to perfection
I'm a ruby gal myself but I could be persuaded to change stone preferences!!
A jewel-encrusted falcon simply displayed
I salute you I M Pei

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