Henry HUANG (1915–75)1 was the first to follow former Bauhaus director Walter Gropius from London to Harvard in 1937. During his 15 years as professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (from 1937 to his retirement in 1952), Gropius taught a number of Chinese students. Alongside Huang, these included WANG Dahong (*1918), CHANG Chao-Kang (1922–92), and Ieoh Ming PEI (*1917).2 CHEN Chi-kuan (1921–2007) did not study under Gropius, but in the early 1950s worked for three years in the firm Gropius co-founded in 1946, The Architects Collaborative (TAC).
I. M. Pei grew up in Suzhou, the classical garden city in Central China. His father was director of the Bank of China and the family owned the Lion Grove Garden (Shī Zǐ Lín), a large private housing complex with a classical garden dating back to the fourteenth century.3 The garden consists of artistically composed rock formations, a man-made pool and several pavilions and bridges, surrounded by a covered walkway. Its construction employed prefabricated wooden components in a modular geometric structure, in sharp contrast to the garden’s preponderance of organic forms. Pei’s childhood experience of space in this environment was formative to his intuitive grasp of spatial poetics in Chinese gardens arrangement.
In 1935, Pei arrived in the United States to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), transferring to the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the winter of 1942. Here, he received the Arthur W. Wheelwright Travelling Fellowship for the academic year 1942–43. In March 1946, Pei completed his studies with a master’s degree and, a few months later, began teaching at Harvard. In 1948 he left the school to join the company of New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf.