The Museum on the Mountain: I.M. Pei
Dir: Peter Rosen
Producers: Peter Rosen Productions & InLine Studios
Duration: 49 minutes
The film covers the story of the work by I. M. Pei on the Miho Museum in Japan.
Pei worked on two projects for a new Japanese religious movement called Shinji Shumeikai. He was approached by the movement's spiritual leader, Kaishu Koyama, who impressed the architect with her sincerity and willingness to give him significant artistic freedom. One of the buildings was a bell tower, designed to resemble the bachi used when playing traditional instruments like the shamisen. Pei was unfamiliar with the movement's beliefs, but explored them in order to represent something meaningful in the tower. As he said: "It was a search for the sort of expression that is not at all technical."
The experience was rewarding for Pei, and he agreed immediately to work with the group again. The new project was the Miho Museum, to display Koyama's collection of tea ceremony artifacts. Pei visited the site in Shiga Prefecture, and during their conversations convinced Koyama to expand her collection. She conducted a global search and acquired more than 300 items showcasing the history of the Silk Road.
One major challenge was the approach to the museum. The Japanese team proposed a winding road up the mountain. Instead, Pei ordered a hole cut through a nearby mountain, connected to a major road via a bridge suspended from ninety-six steel cables and supported by a post set into the mountain. Pei's tunnel through the mountain leading to the Miho Museum was partly inspired by a story from fourth-century Chinese poet Tao Yuanming.
The museum itself was built into the mountain, with 80 percent of the building underground.
When designing the exterior, Pei borrowed from the tradition of Japanese temples, particularly those found in nearby Kyoto. He created a concise spaceframe wrapped into French limestone and covered with a glass roof. Pei also oversaw specific decorative details, including a bench in the entrance lobby, carved from a 350-year-old keyaki tree.
Because of Koyama's considerable wealth, money was rarely considered an obstacle; estimates at the time of completion put the cost of the project at US$350 million.
Ieoh Ming Pei (Chinese: 貝聿銘), FAIA, RIBA 26 April 1917 – 16 May 2019) was a Chinese-American architect. Born in Guangzhou but raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age from the garden villas at Suzhou, the traditional retreat of the scholar-gentry to which his family belonged. In 1935, he moved to the United States and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania's architecture school, but he quickly transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was unhappy with the focus at both schools on Beaux-Arts architecture, and spent his free time researching emerging architects, especially Le Corbusier. After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and became a friend of the Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by New York City real estate magnate William Zeckendorf, for whom he worked for seven years before establishing an independent design firm in 1955, I. M. Pei & Associates. In 1966 that became I. M. Pei & Partners, and in 1989 became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Pei retired from full-time practice in 1990.
Pei's first major recognition came with the Mesa Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado (designed in 1961, and completed in 1967). His new stature led to his selection as chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts. He went on to design Dallas City Hall and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. He returned to China for the first time in 1975 to design a hotel at Fragrant Hills, and designed Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, a skyscraper in Hong Kong for the Bank of China fifteen years later. In the early 1980s, Pei was the focus of controversy when he designed a glass-and-steel pyramid for the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He later returned to the world of the arts by designing the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Miho Museum in Japan, Shigaraki, near Kyoto, and the chapel of the junior and high school: MIHO Institute of Aesthetics, the Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, abbreviated to Mudam, in Luxembourg.
Pei won a wide variety of prizes and awards in the field of architecture, including the AIA Gold Medal in 1979, the first Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 1989, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2003. In 1983, he won the Pritzker Prize, which is sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.