[photopress:Suzhoumuseum.jpg,full,alignright]A most remarkable article in The Spectator by Tessa Keswick. Some background first: Tessa Keswick is deputy chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, having for years been its director. She is also the wife of Henry Keswick, chairman of Jardines. In their country house in England, in Wiltshire, they have a wondrous treasure — a summer house designed by IM Pei who is, almost beyond any argument, the world’s greatest living architect.
IM Pei — the IM stands for Ieoh Ming although it is rarely used — was born in Suzhou ninety years ago and has designed the centrepiece of the city, the new Suzhou Museum, which has just been opened. The similarities between the Suzhou museum and the Keswick Wiltshire pavilion are remarkable. Suzhou is the illustration above. The pavilion is illustrated below.
Tessa Keswick was in Suzhou for the opening of the new museum and wrote a most elegant article on the occasion for The Spectator, November 11 edition. Mainly it is about I.M. Pei who flew from New York for the opening with his entire family and most of his office staff. Tessa Keswick writes:
The Chinese have a saying to describe this well-favoured town: ‘Above us lies heaven, below us lies Suzhou.’ Lying on the Grand Canal, Suzhou was — like Venice — criss-crossed with canals and stone bridges, and is surrounded by the fertile Jiangsu plain. From the 10th century, retired officials, rich merchants, scholars and painters built fabulous houses here. Behind walls they fashioned exquisite water gardens. One of the largest and most splendidly baroque is at I.M. Pei’s family home, the Lion Forest Garden. Suzhou became a byword throughout China for learning, elegance and the beauty of its women.
[photopress:IMPeiKeswick.jpg,full,alignright]I. M. Pei, who, among many other things, designed the amazing pyramid entrance to the Louvre, is known as the last master of high modernist architecture. He is, without doubt, one of the most successful architects of the 20th century.
He was born in Suzhou on April 26, 1917, to a prominent Suzhou family. His father, a banker, was later the director of the Bank of China and the governor of the Central Bank of China. The family residence is now part of the World Heritage listed Classical Gardens of Suzhou.
His first education was at Saint John’s University, Shanghai and then at St. Paul’s College, Hong Kong before moving to the United States to study architecture at the age of 18.
Pei operated his own architectural firm, founded in 1955, which was known as I. M. Pei & Partners until 1989. This living treasure still designs and the result is this wondrous building in Suzhou, the place of his birth.
Source: The Spectator which is a subscription service, and research.