I. M. Pei's Construction Innovation
The National Building Museum and Turner Construction Company have awarded Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, FAIA, the second annual Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology. This award recognizes notable advances and high achievement in construction methods and processes.
"I. M. Pei is a preeminent architectural practitioner who has influenced the process of construction," says Turner CEO Robert Fee. Adds Carolyn Brody, chair of the museum's board of trustees, "His magnificent designs have challenged engineers to devise innovative structural solutions, and his exacting expectations for construction quality have encouraged contractors to achieve high standards."
In a joint statement to the press, Turner and the museum state: "his approach to design is not swayed by popular trends. [For instance,] his design for the Bank of China Tower, in Hong Kong inspired engineers to create the first space truss frame for a tall building." This building has prominent triangular bracing and step-backs as structural adaptations to the high wind loads caused by Hong Kong typhoons.
At a different scale, Pei's iconic glass Pyramide du Louvre, in Paris required contractors and engineers to develop an innovative structural system to support the panes of glass. Writing in American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century, Paul Heyer describes it as "... an almost ephemeral presence that derives from an ingeniously conceived triangular web of supports, clad in a wonderful warm ochre, lightly tinted glass especially drawn by St. Gobain to be compatible with the honey-colored stone of the Second Empire facades of the old Louvre."
Founder of the firm now called Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Pei was honored with the Pritzker Prize in 1983. According to the Pritzker jury citation, the architect "...generally designs sophisticated glass clad buildings loosely related to the high-tech movement. However, many of his designs result from original design concepts."
The citation continues: "Due to his reliance on abstract form and materials such as stone, concrete, glass, and steel, Pei has been considered a disciple of Walter Gropius. However, Pei shows little concern with theory. He does not believe that architecture must find forms to express the times or that it should remain isolated from commercial forces."
The Turner Construction Company is one of the leading builders in the United States. The National Building Museum is a private, nonprofit institution that celebrates American achievements in building.
The jury for the Henry C. Turner Prize includes Chris T. Hendrickson, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; J. Robert Hillier, FAIA, founding partner of The Hillier Group; Clyde B. Tatum, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University; Thomas R. Turner, vice president of national marketing, Turner Construction Company; and Norbert W. Young, Jr., FAIA, president of McGraw-Hill Construction.