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Leoh Ming Pei is known for his bold modernist style that experimented with strict geometries and shapes, and a portfolio that comprises museums, libraries and civic centres. His most significant buildings include the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, the glass-and-steel pyramid at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and Boston's Kennedy Library.
Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, which was designed by architect IM Pei. Completed in 1961, Mesa Laboratory forms part of the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Boulder's outskirts, which totals 22,600 square metres. It has a dramatic, remote setting located on a hilltop that overlooks a golden valley to the west and south. Forested terrain and the Flatirons, which are massive rock formations, rise in the background.
Pei's work is often unmoored from its immediate built environment, The Mesa Lab is a great example of this. Where an architect might usually be responding to the surrounding buildings, or fabric of the city, here he has to respond to the Flatirons section of the Rockies.
The Chinese-American architect's response was to draw on the cliff dwellings that the Ancestral Puebloans built in Mesa Verde national park, in southwest Colorado. Called Cliff Palace, the sprawling ancient village is embedded into the rockface and made of stone and earth to blend in.
Pei followed this by designing Mesa Lab like a miniature neighbourhood, arranged as a series of blocks set out in two clusters. The structures are formed of concrete that is made from sandstone, and bush-hammered to create rough, striated marks along the surface. The concrete is also tinted pink to pick up on the hues of the sandstone cliff surroundings.
The basic elements Pei has used from the Native American cliff dwellings are really beautiful, Towers, curved spaces, and even the square joining to a long vertical line motif expressed in the cutouts and towers can be seen in the original dwellings. Travelling from Boulder it appears quite small, but once you're there you feel like an ant, Other than the occasional arched cutout there is almost nothing human scale about the building.
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