I.M. Pei: Building China Modern

I.M. Pei: Building China Modern

“A fascinating documentary . . . full of subtle, revealing moments about the central tensions in China.”
—John Doyle, The Globe and Mail

“The visuals are lovely . . . Pei is also lovely, an old man but sharp as a tack, and given to pronouncements that are both revelatory and poetic.”
—Philip Kennicott, Washington Post

“Thoroughly engaging and informative . . . Pei–wonderfully modest, suave, and charming but still forceful at 90–guides us expertly in perfect English and Chinese.”
—Library Journal


I.M. Pei has been called the most important living modern architect, defining the landscapes of some of the world’s greatest cities. Entering into the twilight of his career and well into his eighties, Pei returns to his ancestral home of Suzhou, China to work on his most personal project to date. He is commissioned to build a modern museum in the city’s oldest neighborhood which is populated by classical structures from the Ming and Qing dynasties. For the architect who placed the pyramid at the Louvre, the test to integrate the new with the old is familiar but still enormously difficult. In the end, what began as his greatest challenge and a labor of sentiment, says Pei, ultimately becomes “my biography.”

Eight years in the making, I.M. Pei: Building China Modern traces Pei’s pursuit of that dream and explores the defining conflicts of our age – the lure of the modern versus the pull of history. The result is a surprisingly revealing and intimate portrait of the man who set as his goal nothing less than the redefinition of architecture in modern China.


Director: Anne Makepeace
Producer: Eugene Shirley
Writers: Anne Makepeace & Brian Funck