Having demonstrated his ability to combine modernism and Chinese tradition in his master’s thesis at Harvard, Pei was invited by Walter Gropius to participate in his design for Hua Tung University in greater Shanghai (unbuilt). Pei explained that he was “only a draughtsman, a designer for Gropius. But having a Chinese in the office, one who knows China, well, I talked to him and that might have helped.” The new complex was organized into an academic center and three residential compounds, set into the landscape around an artificial lake. Pei focused on dormitory design in modular units around discrete open spaces, recalling traditional Chinese courtyard houses and likely, Mies van der Rohe’s campus design for the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Pei would adopt a similarly integrated language of courtyard-based planning several years later in his campus design for Tunghai University.
Design Team: Walter Gropius and The Architects Collaborative (TAC);
I.M. Pei, contributor