Modern Vernacular

Walter Gropius and Chinese Architecture

Blick in den Hof der Schlafsäle
in: John C. Harkness (Hg.): The Walter Gropius Archive. Volume 4: 1945–1969. The Work of The Architects Collaborative.
Garland Publishing, Inc, New York/London 1991, S. 15.

The transfer of architectonic knowledge from the West to the colonies or other developing countries also includes the transfer occurring by way of returning students. In China’s case, the first generation of architects in the 20th century received their training in the USA or in Europe. They founded schools of architecture modelled on the American Beaux-Arts system. The Chinese students who first went abroad to study in the 1930s stayed there until the end of the war. The second generation of architects, who had completed their bachelor’s degrees in China during the war following the aforementioned Beaux-Arts curriculum, relocated to the USA to continue their studies in the latter half of the 1940s. Some of them studied under former Bauhaus professors such as Walter Gropius (1883–1969), Marcel Breuer (1902–1981) or Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969). There were no Chinese students at the Bauhaus in Weimar or in Dessau between 1919 and 1933.

Henry HUANG (1915–1975)1 was the first to follow the 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 Henry Huang, these included WANG Dahong (*1918), CHANG Chao-Kang (1922–1992) or Ieoh Ming PEI (*1917).2 CHEN Chi-kuan (1921–2007) did not study under Gropius, but worked for three years (from 1951) in The Architects Collaborative (TAC) founded by Gropius in 1946.

The architectonic themes that preoccupied Walter Gropius in the 1940s are reflected in his students’ study projects. Gropius was seeking solutions for prefabricated housing. In this period Mies van der Rohe was working in Chicago on a modular constructive architectonic concept, and virtually all the Chinese students endeavoured to integrate this aspects in their own architectonic vocabulary. Consciously or unconsciously, the prefabrication of modules based on the ideas of Gropius and Mies was a good match for the subtext of the traditions of spatial planning and prefabrication in historical wooden buildings in China.

The Lion Groove Garden in Suzhou during the renovation in 1923, photo: Osvald Sirén, Östasiatiska Museet.

I. M. Pei grew up in Suzhou, the classical garden city in Central China. His father was a 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 14th century.3 The garden consists of artistically composed rock formations, a man-made pool and several pavilions and bridges, and is surrounded by a covered walkway. The buildings follow a modular geometric structure comprising prefabricated wooden components, which forms a contrast with the garden with its organic forms. The experience of space and atmosphere in this environment shaped I. M. Pei’s intuition for the quality of traditional poetics in the spatial arrangements of Chinese garden art.

I. M. Pei arrived in the USA in 1935 to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and transferred to the Harvard Graduate School of Design in winter 1942. Here, he received the Arthur W. Wheelwright Travelling Fellowship for the academic year 1942–43. In March 1946 I. M. Pei completed his studies with a master’s degree and, a few months later, began to teach at Harvard. In 1948 he left the school in order to join the company of New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf.

Prefabrication in Housing Construction

In the early 1940s Gropius was working intensively on aspects of town planning and housing construction. From 1942 he also worked with his fellow German émigré Konrad Wachsmann (1901–1980) for the General Panel Cooperation on the development of prefabrication in housing construction.4 In 1943 Gropius set a task titled “The Post-war Shelter for the Average Family”5 for his master’s class, which included Wang Dahong, I. M. Pei and Philip Johnson (1906–2005). This encouraged the students to think about prefabrication and modular architecture. In December 1943 the journal Pencil Points published the projects of Wang Dahong and I. M. Pei. Prefabrication was a dominant theme in China’s traditional architecture and, although this had not yet been widely explored, this fact preoccupied many of the young Chinese architects.6 I. M. Pei devised a modular timber construction system and, to direct the flow of rainwater, he designed a symmetrical, butterfly-shaped roof.7 In 1945, for the second of two competitions sponsored annually by the American Plywood Corporation, he received an honourable mention for a design for a prefabricated house. This consisted of a central brick-built unit and several prefabricated mobile annexes that could be used flexibly, depending on the needs and finances of the owner. I. M. Pei separated the needs into “essential elements” such as sleep, living, dining and work and “luxury elements” such as relaxation, hobbies, extra space, etc.8

For a competition published by the journal Progressive Architecture in April 1946 I. M. Pei designed a house with several courtyards, titled “A Realistic House for Georgia”.9 The shift – or perhaps the broadening of perspective – from prefabrication to spatial interrelationships is indicated by his quest for intimacy between interior and exterior. It is possible that the experience of the traditional spatial structure of the courtyard houses of his childhood led to this new approach to suburban life in the American post-war city. All the Chinese students, I. M. Pei among them, were prepared to return to their homeland and it stands to reason that they were also looking for solutions for post-war society in China. I. M. Pei’s one-storey “A Realistic House for Georgia” was based on a grid, with which he organised private and public uses in a strict order. As in a traditional Chinese courtyard house, most of the public uses are arranged to face the road and the bedrooms, which open directly into the garden, are located at the end of the building. The project illustrates the search for a meaningful connection between interior and exterior spaces and the combination of the American suburban villa with the spatial quality of traditional Chinese homes.10 The successful competition entries testify to I. M. Pei’s talent and his desire to contribute new ideas to the architectural discourse.

Spatial Tradition and Critical Interpretation

I. M. Pei completed his master’s degree in architecture at Harvard in March 1946 with a design project for an art museum in Shanghai. Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer served as supervisors. Later, Gropius wrote about the project: “It clearly illustrates that an able designer can very well hold on to basic traditional features – which he has found are still alive – without sacrificing a progressive conception of design.”11 With his master’s project, I. M. Pei challenged Gropius to reconsider tradition, or, more precisely, certain values in Chinese architecture. Here, I. M. Pei was searching for the fundamental meaning of traditional spatial solutions, and not the “simple imitations of bygone aesthetic forms”, as Gropius commented.12 The bare white wall and the small garden courtyard are the two defining base elements of the museum’s design. According to I. M. Pei, Marcel Breuer declared his master’s project “the most important project ever produced at Harvard”.13 For Gropius and Breuer, the project’s importance clearly lay in reconsidering tradition and in its transformation for contemporary solutions. I. M. Pei’s design for the museum comprises a simple box, intersected by rectangular courtyards. These reflect in an abstract way the traditional arrangement of historic gardens in Suzhou and evoke I. M. Pei’s unique childhood experience of the already renowned Lion Grove Garden. The transparency between the terraces with their natural configurations of rocks, vegetation and water features allows a visual connection to be made between the exhibits in the exhibition space and nature. Cultural history is displayed in the traditional Chinese manner and the visitor sees the artefacts in a “natural” setting. The sunken garden courtyard at the entrance already addresses the relationship between interior and exterior. Part of this courtyard is integrated in a kind of long forecourt, which features a square water basin and a number of sculptures. An open pavilion indicates the entrance to the museum and covers two ramps, which lead to the upper and lower exhibition spaces respectively. Inside, a central corridor opens up to the left and right into diverse exhibition spaces and cabinets for the presentation of the artworks. Every space is illuminated by natural light entering from the garden terrace, which at the same time enables the visual connection to be made between exhibits and garden art. The close relationship between nature and culture is a characteristic of the Chinese tradition and refers to the literary gardens in which art was presented to visitors in pavilions, in an intimate setting. The neutral composition of architectural spaces with bare white walls and the transparency to the inner courtyards was designed to facilitate the presentation of art in a collage with nature. The gardens were designed with pools, bridges, trees and rocks in an organic arrangement that contrasts with the rational grid-like layout of the exhibition spaces. I. M. Pei explains his ideas for the spatial quality of the museum in terms of the different traditions of showing works of art: “In Oriental museums, you don’t have big sculptures, tapestries or paintings. The scale of the artworks is small; there are objects made of porcelain, jade or ivory. They need a different kind of setting. I wanted to use that to prove to Gropius that you cannot internationalize architecture […] I wanted to prove to Gropius that there’s a limit to the validity of the International Style.”14

The competition entry "Realistic House for Georgia" by I. M. Pei, published in Progressive Architecture.

The layout of the Museum of Shanghai from the master thesis of I. M. Pei at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1946 (colour highlighting by author), in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 24.

Although Gropius had firm ideas about architecture and history, he encouraged his students to find their own way. I. M. Pei recalled in an interview: “Gropius was a good teacher because he never allowed himself to be subjective. [...] He allowed me to do something on my own to prove that I was right.”15 With the belief in his own tradition and in the transformation of spatial relationships using new technology, I. M. Pei created the basis for a contemporary Chinese architecture. But in the same interview, he mentioned Mies van der Rohe’s influence on his architectonic approach: “I was influenced by Mies’s aesthetics, not by Gropius’s.”16 In a perspective drawing, I. M. Pei showed the museum’s interior using cutouts from photographs of traditional Chinese art. This collage refers to the photocollage concept that Mies had worked on from the 1930s.17 Such details also clearly show the extent of Mies’s influence on the young architect. I. M. Pei’s own summer house, built in 1952 in Katonah, New York, clearly refers to Mies’s just-completed Farnsworth House, even though the construction with a timber framework follows different principles. The building floats like a sculpture above the landscape, although its interior appears to be inspired by Japanese archetypes.18

Gropius and China

Walter Gropius never visited Shanghai, but after the war he received a commission from the United Board of Christian Colleges in China to design a new university campus there. While Gropius had frequently dealt with buildings for education before, none of them was on this scale. The plans foresaw a campus for 3,000 students, around 1,000 of whom were to live on site. Furthermore, although Gropius may have been able to recall discussions with students such as Wang Dahong or Henry Huang, his knowledge of Chinese culture and architecture was mostly derived from books. But I.M. Pei had proven with his master’s project that he was able to convert Chinese traditions into contemporary designs. In 1946 Walter Gropius founded The Architects Collaborative (TAC) and the university project in Shanghai became one of the group’s first projects. Working alongside Gropius as a project manager at the TAC was Norman Fletcher (1917–2007). In July 1946, I. M. Pei was appointed to teach at the department of architecture of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Gropius invited him to collaborate on the university project in Shanghai as an associate of TAC.

I. M. Pei drawing of spatial and constructive ideas for the student housing complex on campus, in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, S. 29.

Perspective drawing for the museum shows the transparent interior, where visitors can see the exhibits and the natural elements in the courtyards. For the perspective illustration, Pei takes over the idea of the photo collage by Mies van der Rohe, in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 24.

It is of note that, in late 1946 and early 1947, several experts in the field of Chinese garden art gave lectures at the department of landscape architecture at Harvard.19 In December 1946 George N. Kates (1895–1990)20 presented three lectures on the palaces and gardens of Peking. Grace M. Boynton21 likewise delivered a lecture on the gardens of Peking and the landscape architect and Harvard alumnus Leonard Bartlett presented his pencil sketches and watercolours of China. The Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén (1879–1966) also delivered a talk on Chinese garden art in April 1947.22 These specific activities pertaining to the Chinese garden were surely noticed – or perhaps even initiated – by the Chinese students at Harvard. Gropius was certainly interested in the subject: the master plan for the university campus in Shanghai clearly reflects the traditional features of Chinese gardens, e.g., a central pool, covered connecting paths and an open composition of rectangular courtyards.

In April 1948 Gropius mentioned the project briefly, without going into any detail, to his former collaborator Richard Paulick (1903–1979), who had lived in exile in Shanghai from 1933, and with whom he had corresponded after the war. At the time, Paulick was a professor at St. John’s University in Shanghai, whose architecture department had been founded by Henry Huang.23 In April 1948 Gropius wrote to Paulick: “We are working, in our office, on a university plan for the Shanghai region which a group of American Christian denominations are sponsoring. I am extremely interested in this project and maybe one day it will bring me to Shanghai.”24 St. John’s University was destined to become part of the new Hua Tung University. Paulick’s reply, dated 17 July 1948 does not mention Gropius’ statement about the university project.25

Floor plan and construction principles of the wooden weekend house that Pei built in Kanotha in 1954 for his family, in: Architecture d'Aujourd’hui, No. 103 (Septembre 1962), p. 160–161.

Plan for a Chinese University

Hua Tung University was to be built for the United Board of Christian Colleges in China on the former site of Hongqiao airport in the western suburbs of Shanghai.26 The first discussions about the amalgamation of six Christian colleges to form the East China Federated University had taken place as early as 1928.27 The Great Depression in the USA and the Japanese attack on Shanghai in 1932, or the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), hindered the realisation of the plans. After the war, following much discussion the three universities Hangchow [Hangzhou], Soochow [Suzhou] and St. John’s launched a joint project for a new campus in Shanghai using the slogan “One university, one campus, one administration and one budget”.28 In May 1948 a newsletter from St. John's stated: “The plans for the union of the three Christian universities Hangchow [Hangzhou], Soochow [Suzhou] and St. John’s have been somewhat modified recently so that each university may be able to preserve its own character and yet by federation be of assistance and benefit to the others.”29

Gropius described the plan for the university as follows: “The gap in the artistic development from the traditional master crafts to the present methods of design and building in our period of industrial civilisation has not yet been filled.”30 He argues that, for example, the large wooden roof of traditional architecture was prohibitively expensive: “It is certainly not in keeping with the present conception of technical and economical efficiency to spend much additional money in design for sentimental reasons only.”31 He also states: “This design, therefore, aims at a combination of economically efficient contemporary building techniques with basic Chinese design elements so apparent through many centuries in their traditional compositions: balancing volumes and space, land and water, buildings and trees. Every living Chinese is familiar with landscaped courts of varying sizes with a juxtaposition of unperforated wall parts and window walls, with terraces and open galleries, and last not least (sic), with an intimate scale for the size of the buildings and their silhouettes as well as of their architectural subdivisions. […] Avoiding outright imitation of the old style, it tends to express the ancient philosophy of the Chinese people and their love of nature.”32 Gropius’s arguments are simple, but revolutionary. According to his interpretation, the new must be economical and reflect the historic values without decoration in an abstract way. That tradition and the transformation of spatial qualities play a role at all here may clearly be traced back to the influence of I.M. Pei. In urban development terms, the complex for 2,100 male and 900 female students was designed in four parts set around an artificial lake, with the university’s academic campus to the south and three residential complexes for students and staff to the north. Each of the three residential quarters had its own chapel: one for Methodists, one for Presbyterians and one for Episcopalians. Later, the architects described the design and the scale of the complex as follows: “[…] and with the Chinese propensity for walking, the site plan is composed of low buildings wrapped around an artificial lake.”33

The sketches reveal the architectonic approach, with the covered walkway as a basic structural element that creates a framework for the space, which is interconnected and filled by two or three storey buildings. The pavilions in the sketches are reminiscent of Mies’s work: reduced to a skeleton construction with some roofs slightly sloped, others flat. In the sketches of I. M. Pei especially, the architectonic character of the individual buildings recalls the campus of Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology34 designed by Mies van der Rohe, while the grouping of the buildings in the landscape clearly refers to abstracted examples of the traditional Chinese models wrapped around courtyards. The aforementioned statement by I. M. Pei, in which he expresses his preference for Mies’s aesthetics over Gropius’s, is evident here. Later, I. M. Pei minimised his influence on the project saying: “My job was to make the drawings, but I wasn’t seriously involved in a creative capacity.”35 However, the superlative spatial organisation of the landscape and the skeleton structure of the buildings tell a different story. In the design, the man-made landscape is framed by walkways and small courtyards are integrated in the larger public buildings such as the library.

Zoning diagram for Huatung University in Shanghai by TAC, in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 26.

In 1948 I. M. Pei left Harvard for New York to work for William Zeckendorf. But in addition to his work with him, I. M. Pei evidently continued to work as a freelancer on the Hua Tung project. In a letter to Gropius dated October 1948, he wrote: “Several weeks ago, I paid Dr. McMullen of the Chinese Xi’an Colleges a visit. Our Hua Tung-Project was still being exhibited and the plastic cover of the model looks very good indeed. (…) Dr. McMullen told me that he expects to have a board meeting on Hua Tung soon. I promised him to be present at the meeting to explain the project.”36 Gropius replied the next day that TAC was still working on more sketches for a meeting with Robert J. McMullen37 in Princeton in December.38 The project came to an end in 1948 or early 1949, when it became obvious that the civil war between the communists and the republican government would be settled in favour of the former. In the early 1950s the Chinese government forced the foreign mission agencies to halt their activities and to leave the country. Western critics acknowledged the important character of the plans for Hua Tung University and expressed their regret that the campus was not built: “The site plan is magnificently worked out in terms of shape and space relations. There is a lightness and airiness about the whole that has a Chinese flavour, and this is achieved without resorting to ancient material or form.”39

The buildings for the academic group are connected by covered walkways, in: Harkness, New York/London 1991, p. 11.

I. M. Pei’s role in the design of Hua Tung University can no longer be reconstructed with any clarity. But evidently, his aforementioned insistence that he merely helped out a little does not hold true. The records show that only the perspective drawings were clearly labelled by name.40 Consequently, I. M. Pei contributed three perspective drawings (nos. 4816.17, 4816.21 and 4816.25), Norman Fletcher four, and B. Thomson one. Since the three drawings attributed to I. M. Pei show the students’ accommodation, one may assume that, in addition to general consultation, he worked on this sub-area.41 The first drawing (no. 4816.17) sketches out a bird’s eye view of the dormitories for men and women in the landscape. The women are accommodated in a group of buildings separated from the rest of the campus by a wall.42 Three plans (4816.18–20) show the integration of the building group in the landscape. Two more plans and views (4816.22–23) show the accommodation complex for women, which features enclosed courtyards. Another plan for a “large faculty residence”, a freestanding single-storey villa, is structured around a large courtyard. As with his previous competition entries for residential buildings, the public functions are orientated towards the entrance area, while the private bedrooms are located to the rear, behind the walled courtyard. Two perspective drawings (4816.21+25) show the walkways between the communal residential buildings. The only irritant in the drawings of I. M. Pei is the slightly unusual way in which the people are dressed. Some of them wear Western suits, others traditional Chinese shoes, hats and robes. Does this reflect his ambivalent relationship to traditional forms, which later triggered vigorous debate about his designs for the Xiangshan Hotel in Peking and the Suzhou Museum in his home town?43

Module and Variation

The plans for Hua Tung University in Shanghai would not have evolved as they did without I. M. Pei’s involvement. With his master’s project, I. M. Pei had developed an idea of how modernity should be integrated in the regional context of his homeland; Gropius was evidently fascinated by the reduction to a few modular elements, which, in contrast with the landscape, created a harmonious picture that transcended kitsch. The spatial qualities of the historic complex and the Mies-inspired aesthetics permitted a radical alternative to the prevailing Beaux-Arts idea of his colleagues in China. However, the Bauhaus and its pedagogical concept played a secondary role, if any. Both plans and architectonic approach remained characterised by the relationship with nature and how this might be moulded to integrate the architecture. With his museum design for his master’s degree at Harvard and his contribution to the Hua Tung University project in Shanghai, I. M. Pei sought a contemporary vocabulary to renew the architecture of his homeland – a cause that would occupy him into old age. With the modular layout of the student accommodation facilities, I. M. Pei draws on the historic principles of Chinese wooden architecture, which here seeks an assimilated but contemporary solution by new technical means.

The project in Shanghai gave Walter Gropius a first look at the historic principles of an Asian architecture. In 1954 he was able to visit Japan and was impressed by the traditional architecture there.44 Gropius’s experience with buildings for education predates the Bauhaus Building in Dessau. During his time in Great Britain he had collaborated with Maxwell Fry on schools that interlocked spatial organisation structures in the landscape. The Harvard Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, built in 1949 with TAC, connects the buildings by way of covered walkways and, in doing so, regulates the outdoor spaces. Themes possibly influenced by the work on Hua Tung University are identifiable here. The strongest impulse to emanate from this design is however the engagement with traditional elements of Asian architecture. Here, Gropius saw affinities with his own principles of a prefabricated but variable conception, which could be used in a modular way to build up spaces and thus architecture itself. In addition, the design for Hua Tung University became a reference object for his engagement in Baghdad, used there to illustrate his ability to adapt to local cultures. “[…] the Hua Tung University which I think is good evidence for our capability to adapt to the conditions of foreign countries. My own line is particularly to go really after the actual conditions in a region and derive the design expression from the acquired knowledge.”45

Looking through into the courtyard of the dormitories, in: Harkness, New York/London 1991, p. 15.

Plan for female and male dorms by I. M. Pei, in: Jacoby: Architectural Drawings, Gert Hatje, Stuttgart 1965.

Postscript: A University in Taiwan

I. M. Pei’s involvement in the Hua Tung University project certainly paid dividends. Not only was he able to win over Gropius, but in 1955 he was also commissioned to design a university in Taiwan. That same year, the USA’s United Board of Christian Education, which had had to leave the People’s Republic of China in 1951, founded Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan. I. M. Pei was commissioned to design the campus, but due to his formal obligations to Zeckendorf, he asked Chen Chi-Kwan and Chang Chao-Kang for assistance. Chang had studied at St. John's University in Shanghai in the 1940s under two of Gropius’s former pupils, Henry Huang and Richard Paulick. He then continued his studies in the USA, initially at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago under Buckminster Fuller, then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He completed his master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design under Walter Gropius in 1950, and went on to work for TAC.46 Chen Chi-Kwan studied at the Central University in the wartime capital Chongqing in Sichuan Province from 1940 to 1944. After the war he briefly worked in Nanjing before leaving for the USA in 1948 to continue his studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He moved to Boston in 1951 to work in the TAC office. In 1952, Gropius recommended him to the MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a lecturer.47

When the Tunghai project began in 1954, Chen and Chang left the USA to build the university in Taiwan. Against the backdrop of the aforementioned project for Hua Tung University in Shanghai, it is clear that the design approach for Tunghai University is very much based on the same principles.

The campus of Tunghai University in Taiwan in a drawing by Chen Chi-kuan. At the front, the Luce Chapel and behind it the various faculties, each organized around a courtyard and connected by covered walkways, in: Helmut Jacoby: Architectural Drawings, Gert Hatje, Stuttgart 1965.


Translation German–English by Rebecca Philipps Williams.

  • 1 I use capital letters the first time a Chinese surname appears in the text because, according to the Chinese tradition, some write the surname first and forename second, while others use the Western system and write the surname second. In 1941 Henry HUANG opened a school of architecture at St John’s University in Shanghai. His lessons were based on Harvard’s curriculum and some elements of the Bauhaus. He employed among others the German émigré Richard Paulick, who had previously worked with Walter Gropius in Berlin. I will not address the teaching of architecture in China in this essay, but for references see Eduard Kögel: Zwei Poelzigschüler in der Emigration. Rudolf Hamburger und Richard Paulick zwischen Shanghai und Ost-Berlin (1930–1955), dissertation, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, e-paper 2007 ( retrieved 18 February 2018).
  • 2 There were other Chinese students at Harvard, such as Eileen LOO, who studied landscape architecture and married I.M. Pei in 1942. After the Second World War, Harvard’s Chinese students included LI Ying who came from St. John's University in Shanghai, or Andrew KWO Tun Tsung, a graduate of Tongji University in Chongqing.
  • 3 Today, the Lion Grove Garden is open to the public.
  • 4 See Walter Gropius, Konrad Wachsmann: ‘House in Industry’ in Arts & Architecture 11, 1947, 28­–38. He worked with Wachsmann on the “Packaged House System”. See Anthony Alofsin: The Struggle for Modernism, Architecture, Landscape Architecture and City Planning at Harvard, W.W. Norton & Company Inc., New York, 2002, 181. Also Barry Bergdoll, Peter Christensen, Ron Broadhurst (eds.): Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, Packaged House/General Panel System–Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, 80–85.
  • 5 For I. M. Pei and Johnson see Alofsin: 2002, 184–186.
  • 6 The research into traditional architecture and its modular systems began in 1931 with Liang Sicheng, Lin Hiuying and Liu Dunzhen at the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture.
  • 7 Alofsin, 2002, 185. Alofsin shows Wang’s perspective drawing to illustrate the project of I. M. Pei. See also Christian Bjone: First House, The Grid, the Figure and the Void, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester 2002, 150–161, and for the project in Pencil Points: ‘Variety of Houses from Identical Prefabricated Units of General Panel Corp., Designed by Harvard Students’, in New Pencil Points, December 1943, 81.
  • 8 ‘5 Designs, I.M. Pei’ in Arts & Architecture, April 1945.
  • 9 ‘A Realistic House for Georgia’, in Progressive Architecture, April 1946, 74.
  • 10 Bjone, 2002, 152.
  • 11 Walter Gropius: ‘Chinese Art Museum in Shanghai’ in L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, 24–25.
  • 12 Ibid.
  • 13 Gero von Boehm: I.M. Pei. Light is the Key, Prestel Verlag, München, London, New York, 2000, 43.
  • 14 Ulf Meyer: ‘I.M. Pei, architect (interview)’, in Kai Vöckler, Dirk Luckow (eds.): Peking, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt, New York, 2000, 484.
  • 15 Ibid.
  • 16 Ibid.
  • 17 See Andres Lepik: ‘Mies und die Fotomontage 1910–1938’ in Terence Riley, Barry Bergdoll (eds.): Mies in Berlin. Die Berliner Jahre 1907–1938, exhibition catalogue, New York, Berlin, Barcelona 2001, 324–329.
  • 18 Bjone, 2002, 154. Farnsworth House is a one-room building with a functional core element, while I. M. Pei’s summer house has two separate bedrooms. Farnsworth House is a steel structure with an external balcony and the glass box of the house is elevated off the ground. In I. M. Pei’s summer house the timber joists of the construction go through the interior and are used to elevate the glass box.
  • 19 There were no lectures on Chinese subjects at Harvard before or after this period.
  • 20 Kates was in Peking between 1933 and 1941 and in 1948 published the book Chinese Household Furniture.
  • 21 Boynton, for many years a missionary and faculty member of Yenching University, published the novel The River Garden of Pure Response in 1952, which takes place in a Chinese garden. She had previously translated texts about garden art in China. See ‘Notes on the Origin of the Chinese Private Gardens’, translated and condensed by Grace M. Boynton in China Journal 23, July 1935, 17–22.
  • 22 Sirén had photographed the Lion Grove Garden, where I.M. Pei grew up, in the early 1920s (see Fig. 1). Two years after his lecture he published an opus on Chinese garden art: Osvald Sirén: Gardens of China, The Ronald Press Company, New York 1949.
  • 23 The materials available do not clearly state whether or not Henry Huang was in contact with Gropius during this time.
  • 24 Letter from Gropius to Paulick dated 7 April 1948, estate of Richard Paulick, personal archive.
  • 25 Letter from Paulick to Gropius dated 17 July 1948, estate of Richard Paulick, personal archive.
  • 26 In 1925, the 13 American mission universities in China were jointly organised under the name Committee for Christian Colleges in China. In 1932 this was renamed the Associated Board for Christian Colleges in China and renamed again in 1945 as the United Board for Christian Colleges in China. See Archie R. Croach et al.: Christianity in China, M.E. Sharpe, Amok, New York, London 1989, 52.
  • 27 The six Christian universities included Nanking University, Ginling University (both in Nanjing), Soochow University (in Suzhou), Hangchow University (in Hangzhou), Shanghai University and St. John’s University (both in Shanghai). See Mary Lamberton: St. John’s University in Shanghai, 1879–1951, United Board for Christian Colleges in China, New York 1955, 149.
  • 28 Minutes of the meeting of the St. John’s University Committee, United Board for Christian Colleges in China on 10 September 1948 in the Archives of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, Box 239, RG011-239-3937 (online retrieved on 28 February 2018).
  • 29 Lamperton, 1955: 232.
  • 30 Walter Gropius: ‘Université de Hua-Tung’ in L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, 28.
  • 31 Ibid.
  • 32 Ibid., 29.
  • 33 John C. Harkness (ed.): The Walter Gropius Archive. Volume 4: 1945–1969. The Work of The Architects Collaborative. Garland Publishing Inc., New York, London 1991, 1.
  • 34 The IIT was formed in 1940 from the fusion of the Armor Institute of Technology (where Mies taught) and the Lewis Institute.
  • 35 Meyer, 2000, 488.
  • 36 Letter from I. M. Pei to Walter Gropius dated 27 October 1948, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin.
  • 37 McMullen was Executive Secretary in New York of the United Board of Christian Colleges in China.
  • 38 Letter from Walter Gropius to I. M. Pei dated 28 October 1948, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin.
  • 39 Winston Weisman: ‘Group practice’ in The Architectural Review, September 1953, 150.
  • 40 Harkness, 1991, 11–15.
  • 41 There is one more plan drawing labelled with his name. See Helmut Jacoby: Architectural Drawings, Gert Hatje, Stuttgart 1965.
  • 42 An idea that was subsequently implemented at Tunghai University.
  • 43 He was commissioned to build Xiangshan Hotel in Peking in the mid-1970s and the Suzhou Museum in his hometown Suzhou opened in 2006. Both buildings provoked debates about cultural identity and appropriation in architecture.
  • 44 See e.g., Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Walter Gropius, Kenzo Tange: Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture, Yale University Press, New Haven 1960.
  • 45 From a letter from Walter Gropius to Ellen and Nazwar Jawdat dated 9 September 1954 cited in Regina Göckede: Spätkoloniale Moderne: Le Corbusier, Ernst May, Frank Lloyd Wright, The Architects Collaborative und die Globalisierung der Architekturmoderne, Birkhäuser, Basel 2016, 392.
  • 46 Chao-Kang Chang, Werner Blaser: China. Tao in Architecture, Birkhäuser, Basel 1987, dust cover. I. M. Pei was formally employed by Zeckendorf’s company Webb & Knapp until he founded his own company I. M. Pei and Associates in 1951. The university project in Taiwan was his first independent project, in addition to his formal employment at Webb & Knapp.
  • 47 His name as team member at TAC is written incorrectly (Chi Quan CHEN) for the 1953 project for the Northeast Elementary School in Waltham, Massachusetts. See John C. Harkness: The Walter Gropius Archive. Volume 4: 1945–1969. The Work of the Architects Collaborative, Garland Publishing Inc., New York, London 1991, 108.
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