The
Building

Photo by Scott Basile

Where’s the
Front Door?

I.M. Pei designed the Everson Museum of Art to be a grand sculptural object sitting in a plaza, surrounded by the forms of the modern city. He rejected the traditional notion that a museum needed to be a monumental container for art and decided it ought to be a sculptural work of art itself. This allowed him to design a building that could be experienced as sculpture, from multiple viewpoints over a period of time. Pei wanted us to move around his building, to discover its forms and spaces. He wanted us to detect how to enter the building and be delighted by the spaces we find.

This building breaks with tradition. It does not readily tell us how to use it, how to enter it or what to expect. This building does, in a very different way, tell us that it is about art. It tells us we should look at buildings and art from a different perspective. It asks us to explore and question what we think art, or sculpture, or spaces, or buildings should be. It rewards us with engaging art, exciting spaces and a building that is dynamic, sculptural and beautifully crafted. What begins as a search for the front door becomes a journey to experience art and architecture from a new point of view.

I. M. Pei
1917 — 2019

RIBA Gold Medal winner.

Building Levels

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I.M. Pei

I. M. Pei began studying architecture in the United States in 1935 and eventually earned his B.A. from MIT and his M.A. from Harvard. After starting his own architectural firm in 1955, Pei went on to design such well-known structures as the Kennedy library, a wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the glass pyramid at the Louvre, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Pei left his mark with innovative structures around the world — elegant geometries of stone, concrete, glass and steel that earned him countless architecture honors throughout his long and storied career. The new building of the Everson Museum of Art was designed by him, and is regarded as a work of art in its own right.

1967

An aerial view of the construction of the Everson Museum of March 6, 1967.

View of hallway connecting court to rear galleries and administration. May 2, 1967. Robert J. Arnold Photography.
Architect I.M. Pei, his hand bandaged after an accident with a concrete potted plant, greets Carl Woese, James Heffernan, and Mrs. John Chapman during the Gala Dinner at the Everson Museum on Oct. 25, 1968.
Scaffolding surround the exterior of the Everson Museum during its construction. Photo was taken on March 7, 1967 by the Herald-Journal.

For more than 60 years, Pei was one of the world’s most sought-after architects and has handled a wide range of commercial, government and cultural projects. In the early decades of the 21st century, his firm turned much of its energies to projects abroad, marrying Pei’s stark geometry with regional architectural traditions. One such building is the Museum of Islamic Art, which opened in 2009, an ethereal mix of sharp cubes punctuated by traditional Islamic arches.

Pei died on May 16, 2019, at 102 years old.

The Café
(Opening in 2021)

The Everson Museum Cafe and ceramics gallery for the newly-acquired Rosenfield Collection of ceramics begins with the museum’s mandate that the collection be engaged with through use.