On the other hand, Mr. Pei insisted that ''The fact that it was me who was chosen instead of somebody else is secondary.'' What is significant, he explained, is that ''They consider architecture important. That society is beginning to place a certain emphasis on our environment.''
The Pritzker Prize was established in 1979 by the Hyatt Foundation to reward a body of work in a field not honored by the Nobel Prizes. Philip Johnson was the first Pritzker laureate. Following were Luis Barragan of Mexico, James Stirling of Great Britain and Kevin Roche of the United States.
Mr. Pei, the fifth recipient, has had many previous honors, including the 1979 gold medal of the American Institute of Architects. But what makes the Pritzker special, he pointed out, is that it is worldwide. He is thinking of using its $100,000 award to establish a fellowship program for architects in China that would involve a United States-Chinese cultural exchange. Hotel 'Points a Way'
At his office on Madison Avenue, which he reaches by foot from his East 57th Street home, Mr. Pei recalled that when the Chinese Government asked him to build the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Peking, he was adamant about finding a ''Chinese vernacular in architecture.''
Mr. Pei, who is known especially for his skyscrapers, designed a low-rise hotel that ''points a way; I think it's the right way, if you grant me that immodesty,'' he said. At least everyone agrees, he said happily, that it could only have been built in China. No one has complained that it looks foreign, or that it was an ''interpretation'' by someone long away from his country. Although he left China at the age of 17 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then the Harvard Graduate School of Design, ''I still have very strong feeling for its history and culture,'' he said. ''You don't forget that.''
But his Bank of China in Hong Kong will be ''as Western as any building,'' he said. ''Hong Kong is the crossroad of the world,'' he explained, ''and it has the technique and means to do a modern building.''
In Peking, he said, a tall Western building would have been out of place. But Hong Kong is already a city of Western, late-20th-century buildings, most of them put up in the last 10 to 15 years. ''With one of the highest land costs in the world, it has to build vertically and very densely. Peking and Hong Kong are totally different contexts. It proves the importance of context.'' Bank 'an Intricate Geometry'
The Hong Kong bank will rise more than 70 stories, ''an intricate piece of geometry,'' he said, ''a mass of triangles in steel and glass.'' Actually it is a very simple building, he added, ''and they are the best kind.'' It consists of four triangular towers that rise to different heights and whose bases together constitute a rectangle. Practically, the shapes will brace against wind velocity that is twice that of New York. Not to express the pragmatic diagonals in a visually dramatic way, he said, ''would have been a missed opportunity.''
One reason he accepted the assignment was a personal one, he said. Mr. Pei's father, who died six months ago, started the branch 60 years ago and later headed the Bank of China. Banks that Mr. Pei recalls from his youth ''looked like Renaissance palazzi.'' But about the only other thing he can remember on the subject of banks was a remark by his father that ''a bank has to look secure.''
Mr. Pei never considered banking as a career, ''nor did my father try to influence me,'' he said. ''I count that as being rather wise of him and fortunate for me.''
Mr. Pei's work has changed continuously over the years, he said. ''But do I jump from black to white and the next day to orange? No. Within constraints.'' The constraints include the needs of the people who will use a building as well as the building's surroundings. His changes have consisted largely in deepening explorations - of, for instance, the effect oof light upon form and space. Considering Curvilinear Forms
He also has been delving into the possibilities of curvilinear forms - an interest that grew since his 1958 church in Taiwan, which has curved walls to resist typhoons. They seem to flutter as the viewer enters, he said, adding: ''There is a great deal of undulation when you move against curvilinear planes.'' This should be apparent in a much more complex use of curves in his forthcoming Dallas Symphony Hall.
And Mr. Pei has become more interested in the relationships among grouped buildings. One of his latest designs is for the Gateway Complex, a pair of office buildings in Singapore, similar to each other but turned at different angles. Group relationship also accounts for the impact of a complex not of his creation, which he considers by far the most important urban design in New York: Rockefeller Center.
Mr. Pei hasn't worked at a drawing board for 10 or 15 years. ''Most of architecture now is too complicated,'' he explained. ''Drawing is not fast enough. I think about it and construct in my mind, a skill one develops out of necessity. The closest I come is to make computer studies.''
Often, Mr. Pei said, he will tell one of his assistants: '' 'I think certain things will happen visually. Please go explore and see if I am right.' And sometimes they come back and say, 'Yes,' and sometimes, 'Uh, not exactly.' ''
He has no favorites among his works. He is ''very proud'' of the Kips Bay Plaza apartment complex here, which was built in 1962 for an ''incredibly'' small amount of money, yet was a striking departure from previous complexes financed by the Federal government.
''But how can you compare that to the National Gallery? It's like a man with many children,'' he said. ''They all have different challenges, and their personalities are different.''Continue reading the main story
Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its many secrets, houses a wonderful collection of works that date back to ancient times through the Renaissance. Most notably though, the museum is home to a bona fide Egyptian temple!
The Temple of Dendur, as it’s called, is completely open to the public, which means visitors can walk through its doors and hallways, experiencing the temple as it was originally used. Here are 10 of our favorite fun facts about the structure:
1. It Took 10 Years to Move the Temple of Dendur to New York City
1885 photo of the temple in its original location. Image via ancient-egypt.co.uk
In 1965, the Egyptian government gifted the Temple of Dendur to the United States government which helped save many Nubian monuments from drowning in the floods of Lake Nasser through the Aswan Dam project.
Many monuments that were saved were simply dismantled and moved to higher ground, but Dendur was disassembled and moved across the ocean in 661 crates on the S.S. Concordia Star. It took nearly 10 years for the complete temple to make it to New York City.
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