Image: East Building, National Gallery of Art
On Saturdays, we often flag a piece work of art that is connected to food and maybe connected to D.C. Today we pay tribute to an architect that defined how we experience art in Washington. Ieoh Ming “I.M.” Pei, the mind behind the Louvre renovation that installed the pyramid entrance, died this week at the age of 102. He was also the architect of the National Gallery’s East Building with it soaring, angular atrium. Many of us have walked up to the second floor and been thrown off by the steps that were slightly askew. The building framed the art and framed our experience of the art. It is modern and challenging yet accessible, reflecting how his biographer Michael Cannell described his work: “He went a long way toward translating modern architecture on behalf of a public that may not otherwise have been disposed to appreciate it.”
After the debacles of the post-war federal buildings – including the notorious and decaying FBI headquarters – the East Building is a reminder that D.C. is great city with a great cultural history that was capable of regeneration. D.C. gave Pei one of his greatest canvasses and he gave us a gift.