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Remembering César Pelli at the Museum

Categories: Articles, Press

We were saddened to hear of the death of César Pelli at 92. Pelli left an indelible mark on the Museum over the years.

Here is a drawing he made of our building, which hangs in one of our meeting spaces and was featured in our Museum Shop.

César Pelli’s landmarks include the vibrantly colored Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, and the Petronas Towers, twin spires in Malaysia that were briefly the world’s tallest structure.

We have three models of the Petronas Towers in our 20th Century Souvenir Buildings Collection, including one in the form of a clock:

Locally, travelers pass through Pelli’s iconic design for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, seen here in photographs © Alan Karchmer:

We also hold a model of Herring Hall, a building completed in 1984 at William Marsh Rice University in Houston, Texas:

The Museum presented a Pelli exhibition from 2001 to 2002 titled Connections. Rather than applying his own rigid doctrine or “signature” style to each unique building, Pelli approached projects through what he termed “connections.” For Pelli, each project had unique parameters. He built in all scales and styles in varied locations with diverse clients and artists. His success came late in life. He didn’t open his own firm until he was 50, and even then he said, “It was only because I was forced to.”

The exhibition was organized on his themed connections to time, construction, purpose, culture, design process, constituency, and oneself as the parameters guiding his design process.

The exhibition’s opening was scheduled for 9/11/2001. When the World Trade Center fell, Pelli–who was already in town for the opening party–took a taxi all the way back to New York since many of his buildings were damaged and he wanted to be there to help in whatever ways he could. Here you see the World Financial Center, designed by Pelli and immediately adjacent to the World Trade Center.

Pelli also joined the Museum for a Spotlight on Design lecture in 2012 and discussed his design for the National Children’s Museum. You can see that program in its entirety here.

We’re grateful for the life and work of César Pelli and know that his buildings will continue to inspire future generations of architects. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.