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People’s Republic of China Pavilion, World’s Fair

Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

In 1968, I.M. Pei was asked to design a pavilion for the Republic of China at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. Taiwan was eager to portray its cultural development and economic progress and hoped an ennobling design would convey the message to the international community. Pei refused given the pressures of other work, not least the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, his most important commission to date; he was also concerned about the depth of Taiwan’s commitment and a budget beyond a “five & ten cent” display. After additional requests, Pei agreed to visit Taipei and help select qualified architects and engineers, and subsequently to assist in the search for a design concept with 2-3 architects from the Taiwanese team, who would work out of his office in New York.

The pavilion, executed in stucco and demolished after the world’s fair closed (March – September 1970), bore the clear influence of Pei’s design for the East Building at a critical stage of its development: triangulated forms around a central skylit space connected by enclosed tubes (instead of NGA’s open bridges) and covered by a concrete ceiling with triangular coffers. Pei was just then struggling with the weight of his ponderous coffered ceiling in Washington, ultimately replacing it with a tremendous tetrahedral skylight that would be the building’s crowning glory.


Courtyard view / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

I.M. Pei, consultant