CityLab Daily: How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

What We’re Following

No stone unturned: I. M. Pei died Thursday at the age of 102 after a long career as an architect of great renown. Most known for his glass pyramid addition to the Louvre Museum in Paris, the China-born, M.I.T-educated, and Harvard-molded architect took on commissions both big and small around the world, particularly in the United States.

Since the 1960s, he helped define the ambitions of American cities through various cultural, academic, and civic commissions on high-profile sites including the JFK Library (Boston), the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (D.C.), Everson Museum (Syracuse), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland). Although mostly earning praise over the years, Pei’s firm was nearly ruined in the 1970s by the fallout from faulty glass panels used for the facade of the Hancock Tower in Boston. And then there was the Pei Plan for Oklahoma City, adopted in 1965, which demolished various treasured buildings and nearly 40 percent of downtown for a new “City of Tomorrow” that was hardly realized before local resentment pushed officials to move on and make a new plan in the ’90s.

Pei’s career was long and impressive. The work of his firm and the civic ambitions that fueled it are inescapable. Stay tuned to CityLab over the next few days as we publish stories about his designs and his legacy.

Mark Byrnes


More on CityLab

How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

CityLab Staff

‘Fairbnb’ Wants to Be the Unproblematic Alternative to Airbnb

The vacation rental industry is mired in claims that it harms neighborhoods and housing markets. Can a nonprofit co-op make the tourist trend a community asset?

Feargus O’Sullivan

Former NYC Housing Czar Alicia Glen on Upzoning, Amazon HQ2, and More

In an interview, the former deputy mayor under Bill de Blasio says diversity is the key to New York’s growth: “Even with all of our warts, we’re the best.”

Richard Florida

Should Texting While Crossing the Street Be Illegal?

A New York lawmaker wants to fine pedestrians for distracted walking. Street-safety advocates say it’s an ineffective policy that may actually cause more harm.

Linda Poon

The ‘Broken Windows’ Debate Survives Its Creators

The theory, introduced in a 1982 Atlantic article, that maintaining order could reduce the incidence of serious crimes remains contentious 35 years later.

Annika Neklason


Concrete Jungle Gym

(Ariel Aberg-Riger/CityLab)

New York City’s public playgrounds are so ubiquitous they’re almost invisible. With over 2,000 spread out across five boroughs, tens of thousands of kids play in them every day. But just over a century ago, they didn’t exist. As the city industrialized and urbanized, children played in streets, alleys, and vacant lots. In the late 19th century, though, social reformers began to fear for kids’ health and safety. They organized play spaces in tenements, lobbied local government for parks and facilities—and then the playground movement was born.

On CityLab, visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger takes a look at the many playgrounds of New York City and finds a long history of inequity and creativity. Read her story: An Illustrated History of New York City’s Playgrounds


What We’re Reading

Trump administration wants to cut funding for public housing repairs (NPR)

Uber Eats is facing a price war, just like Uber (Vox)

The tenants’ rights movement is expanding beyond big cities (New Republic)

How glass skyscrapers took over the world, and why we need to stop building them (Fast Company)

The history of purpose-built apartments for women (Spacing Toronto)


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