Ancient cultures in Egypt, the Near East, and Central America built pyramids for religious reasons. Today, we still build pyramids—not because of any spiritual beliefs, but because we admire their geometry. One of the most famous modern pyramids sits atop the entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Controversial, Then Beloved
Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei designed the famous Louvre Pyramid. Born in China in 1917, Pei moved to the United States in 1935 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. After graduating, he quickly developed a reputation for innovative, modernist designs. He tends to favor clean, geometric shapes without a lot of curves. Rather than maintaining a recognizable style, however, Pei chooses to embrace the individuality of each project, carefully taking into consideration the purpose of the building and the needs of its users. The Louvre was no exception.
Before the Pei addition, the Louvre had many entrances. Visitors could not move easily between the museum's wings. To address this problem, Pei created an underground space to serve as a central entrance hall for the museum. He wanted to make the entrance attractive, so he designed the giant glass pyramid. The structure would allow natural light into the underground area. It also would call attention to the entrance while not blocking views of the Louvre's other buildings. It would be unique and lovely.
At first, the majority of Parisians protested Pei's design. They feared the futuristic addition would spoil the Louvre's classical looks. Once Pei completed the pyramid in 1989, however, opinions began to change. Today, people from around the world know and love the Louvre's iconic pyramid, and it has become a fixed landmark of the city of Paris.
See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agUipCnd4gQ
Watch the videos below to go on a virtual tour of the Louvre Pyramid and hear I. M. Pei discuss his design. Check out the last link to see some of Pei's other architectural works.