One of the most famous architects of his time, Pei designed numerous famous buildings around the world before retiring in 1990. Born in China, he moved to the United States in 1935, and studied architecture and design at MIT and Harvard before founding an independent design firm in 1955. One of his first major projects was designing the Mesa Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
From there, he became the chief architect for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts and worked on the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Outside of the U.S., he was best known for designing the iconic glass and metal pyramid of the Louvre in Paris, the Miho Museum in Kyoto, Japan, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.
One of his last major projects before retiring was the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Some critics were surprised that Pei moved away from his more high culture projects to design something for mass appeal, but that challenge is what hooked him. Around the same time, he created the new three-story headquarters for the CAA in Beverly Hills, one of the few times he worked in Southern California.
Pei earned several architectural awards throughout his life, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the lifetime achievement award from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. George H.W. Bush also awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.