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César Pelli: 1926—: Architect

Soaring, Light-flooded Spaces

Pelli's structures often feature large skylights or walls of glass. He told Capital Times journalist Kevin Lynch, "I believe that everybody enjoys natural light. You can have it in many places. The openness to light does two things: It brings natural light to the materials, and opens up the views and makes you feel you are in a larger, grander space. But most importantly today, it opens the interior to the city, so the activities that take place inside—in the lobbies and balconies—contribute to the sense of life and excitement for passersby on the street." Architecture critics often commend Pelli for drawing upon surrounding elements to create a unique structure that fits in with the surrounding block. As Pelli told National Real Estate Investor writer Ben Johnson, "Some architects just plop a building down in the middle of a city, and to them it is a piece of art. But that is a building that draws attention to itself, not to anything around it. Unfortunately, some buildings only relate to themselves."

In 2001 Pelli had started work on a new structure for the Enron Corporation in Houston. He was devastated by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the following day, thousands of workers at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur were evacuated. The events have caused him to reexamine the human desire to build towards the heavens. "I imagine there will be a slowdown in the pursuit of very tall buildings for a while," Capital Times reporter Samara Kalk quoted him as saying. "In some ways, it was an attack on architecture." Pelli said that as a designer of such structures, he was tremendously affected by the images of the collapse. "All I could think about were the people and the lives, not the buildings," Kalk quoted him as saying. "Buildings can be replaced. Human lives cannot."



Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale, 1998.


Americas (English Edition), November-December 1990, p. 36.

Architectural Review, March 1997, p. 27.

Architecture, January 1995, p. 23.

Capital Times (Madison, WI), December 4, 1999, p. 1A; September 26, 2001, p. 1A.

Crain's New York Business, September 18, 2000, p. 41.

Library Journal, January 2000, p. 98; November 1, 2001, p. 13.

National Real Estate Investor, June 1995, p. 114.

Presentations, March 2002, p. 38.

Progressive Architecture, April 1985, p. 86; June 1988, p. 27; March 1989, p. 73; July 1991, p. 25; February 1995, p. 31.

San Francisco Business Times, August 4, 2000, p. 14.

Time, September 24, 1990, p. 98.

Wisconsin State Journal, November 2, 2000, p. A9.

—Carol Brennan

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - PersonalCésar Pelli: 1926—: Architect Biography - Won American Scholarship, Years In New York And Los Angeles, Designed World's Tallest Building