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I.M. Pei had major impact on SUNY

I.M. Pei

American architect I.M. Pei, who died earlier this week at 102, left a major imprint at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

According to the university’s web site, Pei, with partner Henry N. Cobb, designed the master plan for the modernized campus in 1968, at the special request of then-president Oscar E. Lanford.

“Today, many SUNY Fredonia buildings are listed in architectural guides and examples of exceptional modern architecture. Some are described in architectural history books,” the university web site notes. “The National Building Museum listed the SUNY Fredonia campus as one of I.M. Pei’s ideal places to visit in its 1991 journal, “Blueprints.”

In addition to dramatizing the campus infrastructure with six new buildings erected during the 1970s, Pei imprinted the campus with its characteristic circular perimeter, aptly named Ring Road.

The academic buildings that can trace their genealogy to Pei are Maytum Hall, Williams Center, Reed Library, Rockefeller Arts Center, McEwen Hall, and Houghton Hall. The design of Daniel Reed Library earned Henry Cobb and I.M. Pei the 1969 Prestressed Concrete Institute Award.

“Fredonia was one of many beneficiaries of I.M. Pei’s incredible talent,” the university said in a statement to the OBSERVER on Friday. “The campus design has been lauded in architectural publications as examples of exceptional modern architecture, and some are described in architectural history books. Along with Fredonia’s iconic buildings, Pei imprinted the campus with its characteristic circular perimeter, Ring Road. Fredonia is proud to learn, work, and reside in these symbols of I.M. Pei’s vision and brilliance today and everyday.”

Ieoh Ming Pei was born on April 26, 1917, in Canton, China, the city now called Guangzhou. He came to the United States in 1935 with plans to study architecture, then return to practice in China. However, World War II and the revolution in China prevented him from going back.

Inspired by the 1930s building boom as a schoolboy in Shanghai, Pei studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He advanced from his early work of designing office buildings, low-income housing and mixed-used complexes to a worldwide collection of museums, municipal buildings and hotels.

Commencement ceremonies are being held today in the morning and afternoon at the university.

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