I.M. Pei, architect who drew plans for Oklahoma City Urban Renewal, dead at 102
I.M. Pei, the internationally renowned architect and planner who controversially reshaped downtown Oklahoma City, died Wednesday night at age 102.
Pei's work over a century includes icons around the world, including the Louvre Pyramid and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Oklahoma City leaders commissioned Pei in the early 1960s to draw up a plan for tearing down hundreds of buildings to reinvent the urban core with a mix of new office towers, hotels, a shopping mall, a performance theater and what turned into the Myriad Gardens.
Pei was in his mid-40s and already earning international accolades when he was hired by city fathers who were seeking to launch an urban renewal program in the early 1960s. From his Manhattan office, Pei and his crew created a model, renderings and plans for a dramatic re-creation of downtown Oklahoma City.
A $100 million regional shopping "Galleria" was to be the crown jewel of this new downtown. High-rise hotels and office buildings, a spectacular park and condominium housing would encircle it.
Contractors hired by Urban Renewal to implement the “Pei Plan” leveled 447 buildings, and private owners tore out another 75 or so over 220 acres between NW 6 and Interstate 40, from Shartel Avenue to the BNSF Railway.
The Myriad Gardens, Mummers Theater and a handful of new office towers were built, but the mall and much of the rest of the plan fizzled and large empty blocks were left downtown throughout the 1980s and 1990s, leaving locals largely unhappy over Pei’s legacy. His plan was largely abandoned by the early 1980s.
Internationally, Pei remained active into his 90s with later projects including a design for the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar in 2008.
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