Dallas City Hall Architect Dies At 102

Steven Pickering
May 17, 2019 - 6:06 am
dallas city hall

Photo: Steven Pickering, 1080 KRLD

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - The man who designed Dallas City Hall and the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center has died. Architect I.M Pei was 102 years old.

Pei was known for several landmark buildings around the world, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the glass and steel pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Pei was born in China in 1917 and moved to the United States in 1935 to attend college. He became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and opened his own firm in 1955.

He was already well-established as an architect when he was asked to design a new City Hall for Dallas in the 1960's.

"The building was commissioned under Mayor J. Erik Jonsson as the city was recovering from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and part of the way that Jonsson envisioned re-branding the city as a new place that represented something positive and forward-looking was through architecture," said Kate Holliday, Associate Professor at UT-Arlington and Director of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture.

When the building was finished in 1977, Holliday says, the results were evident. "It really helped re-define the image of the city of Dallas as a modern city, a progressive city, a city that was on the cutting edge...a city that was bold."

Pei's firm was involved with several downtown Dallas skyscrapers, and he was chosen to design the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Pei used a dramatically different approach for that building.

"The City Hall building is all wedges and hard lines. Go inside the Meyerson and it's all curves - circles and curves and cones," said Holliday. "It's a really fluid building that rewards you if you walk through the lobby spaces and these really poetic curves. It's gorgeous on the inside."

Holilday says architects will remember Pei for his work on the Louvre Pyramid and on the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. But he also had a big impact on the Dallas skyline. "We have a really fantastic selection of his works here," said Holliday. "For anyone who's interested in Pei, I would recommend this weekend...take a trip to Dallas City Hall and take a look at it with new eyes. It's really one of the gems of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is a little challenging, but it's absolutely worth the time and effort to get to know that building - it's a real treasure."