Architectural Dooz-Gest: I.M. Pei, Taurus

By Alla Kazovsky

 

You are not automatically your Sun sign. Why? Because it describes the qualities you need to tap into. Your Sun sign illuminates where attention is required in the process of self-formation. Thus, instead of behavior patterns, the Sun describes a series of actions — what you need to develop.

Let’s say a Taurus Sun has an inner drive to bring ideals and visions “down to earth.” How can that be accomplished? Hmm… Architecture as a profession might be a good vehicle for creatively forging that ambition. There are numerous possibilities, but it certainly is one of them.

I.M. Pei portrait

Meet architect I.M. Pei, a Taurus. He lived to 102. Ieoh Ming Pei was born in China on April 26, 1917, to a banker and an artist. At 18, in the mid 1930’s, familiar with the America of Hollywood movies, I.M. left home to study architecture in the United States. 

It was up to Aries to start things. The task of Taurus is to sustain, deepen, and enrich. Taurus is the most persistent and steadfast of all the signs.

I understand that time has changed, we have evolved. But I don’t want to forget the beginning.

In 1942, I.M. Pei married Eileen Loo, a Chinese national, like him. She came to the United States to study art. They were both from distinguished Chinese families. Their marriage spanned 72 years: Taurus is the happiest when in a committed relationship. 

Taurus enjoys life’s simple pleasures and old-fashioned values. No need to over-think or over-complicate anything.

Be the best, not necessarily the original.

Soon after completing his training, Pei was approached by a commercial real estate developer, to head an in-house design team.

In his early thirties, Pei found himself in charge of a huge team working on vast projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The experience gave him an opportunity to develop as a manager apt at coping with municipal red tape and to perfect poured-in-place construction techniques. 

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

A persevering and determined, according to Sue Tompkins, Taurus is “blessed with realism and common sense.”

One thing I learn - I've been in practice now for half a century or more, and the most important ingredient for an architect to do a good building is to have a good client. I think a client counts for as much as fifty per cent.

In 1964, a relatively young architect who had not worked on monumental projects was able to persuade Jacqueline Kennedy to give him a chance at reinforcing her vision for the Kennedy Memorial Library. He used his own brand of polite insistence.

A true Taurean hero; he was plowing his way through, warming others with his unalienable gifts, and radiating his authority. Let’s dig deeper.

 

Element: Earth

The ancients considered experiences that were thought of as solid, constant, and material to be associated with the earth element. Rationally doing is what the earth family all about. Capricorn aims to achieve something real (cardinal earth sign); Taurus wants to hold on to its material stability (fixed earth sign), and Virgo wishes to improve on it (mutable earth sign).

Earth is the most stable of all elements. Among earth signs, Taurus is by far the earthiest and the warmest, as the soil thaws in the spring, bringing fertility.

Success is a collection of problems solved.

Pragmatic Pei impressed clients with his uncompromising dedication to the job and most importantly, conservation-minded approach to the site. His Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado (1961-1967) was clad in local stone that goes from pink to rose-red to ruddy brown with the passing sun. Its abstracted blocky forms took inspiration from the Southwest landscape. "When I first came to this awe-inspiring landscape," described Pei, "it was as if I was standing with my mother again, on a sacred mountainside in China."

I.M. Pei Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in ColoradoMesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado (1961-1967)

 

Modality: Fixed

Fixed signs have the function of preserving and sustaining. The first and the most fixed of the fixed signs, stable Taurus does not jump into anything. It needs to examine pros and cons.

Careful and methodical, Taurus pays great attention to making sure that the work has practical relevance. Once committed to the goal, unwavering Taurus does not give up.

I didn't want to think about a project that I couldn't finish. That's a kind of temptation. One has to realize one's limitations. Why kid yourself?

While working on the Kennedy Memorial Library (1964 – 1979) Pei faced interminable interference and bureaucracy. His first proposal was unveiled nine years after he received the commission.

I.M. Pei Kennedy Memorial LibraryKennedy Memorial Library (1964 – 1979) 

Taurus is the best with follow-through. Reliable Taurus patiently perseveres.

Stop worrying about missed opportunities and start looking for new ones.

Delays in freeing the site for construction and local concerns about possible urban congestion resulted in a decision to abandon the original site and build the library elsewhere. I.M.Pei and his associate Ted Musho had to start over.

As such, the ground level would be raised by 15 feet to accommodate the proposed split-level design: the triangular tower housing archival, educational and administrative functions resting on a base, containing a darkened exhibition space and two theaters. An awe-inspiring 115-foot high sun-filled memorial was conceived as an empty and silent glass pavilion featuring an enormous American flag suspended against a breathtaking view of sky, land, and open sea. For Taurus, it’s not about applause. It’s about relating to the world in its own way. Instinctually.

Taurus, a fixed sign, wants to make things real and tangible.

Design is something you have to put your hand to.

East Wing of the National Gallery of Art (1968 -1978) is considered one of I.M. Pei’s masterpieces of geometric precision, famous for its 19-degree razor-sharp wrapped around in stone corner that visitors love to touch. Taurus needs to develop a strong sense of texture and form.

I.M. Pei East Wing of the National Gallery of ArtEast Wing of the National Gallery of Art (1968 -1978)

 

Polarity: Negative or Yin

Both water and earth elements are yin or re-active. Earth, like water, has the tenacity to endure while resisting change; it has to be acted upon or formed by an external force. 

Taurus responds to physical constraints with practical, common sense solutions.

Architecture is the very mirror of life.

The zig-zagging steel frame of the 70-storey-high Bank of China Tower (1982-1990) in Hong Kong was a structural response to an overused skyscraper typology — a building which doubles as a wind-resistant truss capable to withstand Hong Kong’s typhoons. 

I.M. Pei Bank of China TowerBank of China Tower (1982-1990)

Taurus wants to sustain and enrich.

I want to bring out the best in a community and contribute something of permanent value.

In 1983, I.M. Pei was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He used his prize money to create a scholarship for Chinese students to study architecture in the United States. That is a great manifestation of Taurean yin energy!

 

Orientation: Personal

Taurus is aware of the outer world as perceived through the senses; it needs to immerse in its soothing, centering, and healing qualities. To be in alignment with natural law, Taurus must calm down and quietly accept what is, without making any effort to analyze or justify it.

Taurus needs to be in touch with constant rhythms of nature.

It is good to learn from the ancients. I'm a bit of an ancient myself. They had a lot of time to think about architecture and landscape.

While working on a Shinto temple in Kyoto, Japan, he talked about “fusion of ancient feeling and contemporary design." He said: "In another life, I might be a gardener.”

Miho MuseumMiho Museum

 

Complementary Sign: Scorpio

Taurus represents physical security attained as a result of having material needs met. Scorpio, on the other hand, is about achieving emotional security by overcoming internal limitations. Together they make a whole. The water refreshes the earth and enables it to bring forth even more productivity.

On a hero’s quest, Taurus must put everything on the line.

I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity.

Mr. Pei made his biggest international mark in France, with his most contentious project. The Louvre Museum sorely needed a renovation/expansion to accommodate a huge increase in visitors. Pei proposed relocation of the main entrance to the central courtyard, which would be revitalized and transformed from a parking lot into a focal space. In the process of accomplishing a Herculean labor of improving the museum’s circulation, he found himself in the center of the political controversy, being blamed for vandalizing one of the world's prominent landmarks. In the end, Pei prevailed.

I.M. Pei Louvre MuseumLouvre Museum

I.M. Pei spent a lifetime deliberately walking his own path, patient and resilient, he aspired to create structures with a sense of permanence and gravitas:

  • Longevity of the career.
  • Constant style. Common theme thread.
  • Inner drive. Beaming energy.

Well, I am convinced; are you? At the onset, I had no idea that everything was going to fit so well. Astrology really works.

 

 Alla Kazovsky

 

Cover image by Pinterest

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