When in 1984 I.M.Pei, then the most sought-after architect in America, presented his plans for a 70-foot glass pyramid in the 18th-century courtyard of the Louvre, the general reaction was outrage. This was an atrocity; it was "an annex to Disneyland". Because Mr Pei was Chinese-American, a foreigner twice over, he clearly had no understanding of the Louvre, or Paris, or France.
These remarks did not annoy him. As a man of courtesy and cultivation, with quick enthusiasms and wide, wide smiles, he took them in his stride. But he was surprised. He had been asked to design a new entrance for the museum and, instead of adding on some utilitarian concrete block, had created a great welcoming space: put a swirling staircase underground and capped it with a glow of transparency and light that did not touch, let alone hurt, the old ornamented facades. In short, he had taken his usual care. He had also expressed, once again, his two great passions in architecture.
The first, as befitted a true modernist trained at MIT and Harvard, was for simple geometric forms, triangle, circle andsquare. On these he based all his buildings, which included the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington, the KennedyLibrary in Boston, the Museum of Art at Cornell, the Bank of ChinaTower in Hong Kong and the Museum of Islamic Art in Dubai. Slopes, as in rhomboids and trapezoids, delighted him; pyramids pleased him for their perfect stability. And when he dreamed of one in the Louvre—for he always did the dreaming, while associates did the drawing—it fitted exactly, to his mind, with the love of geometry and rationality that he saw everywhere in Paris.