Fragrant Hill Hotel marked I.M. Pei’s return to China, having left four decades earlier to attend college in the United States. Newly opened to the West, the client requested a tall, high-tech hotel in central Beijing to accommodate an anticipated surge of tourism. Instead, Pei designed a low-rise compound in a park-like site about 25 miles outside the capital. Rather than transplant modern Western solutions or simply repeat age-old Chinese traditions, he hoped to define a “Third Way” that would bridge the two extremes. The goal to develop a uniquely Chinese language of modern architecture resonated throughout Pei’s career, beginning with his master’s thesis at Harvard in 1946 and culminating in Suzhou Museum a half-century later.
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