On June 28, 2013 at Restaurant Faglioni, César Pelli, FAIA was presented with the Metro New York Illini Club Big Apple Illini of the Year Award by Illini Club President Tony D’Anzica. The Illinois School of Architecture Director David M. Chasco, FAIA introduced César Pelli, FAIA to the dinner crowd. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise was also in attendance to honor César Pelli.
César Pelli is the Senior Principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, which has its main office in New Haven, CT. He is an Argentine-American architect known for designing some of the world’s tallest buildings and other major urban landmarks. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) listed Pelli among the ten most influential living American architects. His many awards include the 1995 AIA Gold Medal, which recognizes a body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Perhaps his most famous works are the Petronas Twin Towers, which were, for a time, the world’s tallest buildings. He also designed the World Financial Center complex in downtown Manhattan.
Other noteworthy projects include:
· Bloomberg Tower, NY, NY
· Museum of Modern Art Expansion and Renovation, NY, NY
· Carnegie Hall Tower, NY, NY
· North Terminal, Reagan National Airport, Washington, DC
· Canary Wharf Towers, London, UK
· Business Instructional Facility, Champaign, IL
· Theodore Roosevelt U.S. Courthouse, Brooklyn Heights, NY
César was born October 12, 1926 in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina. He received his first architecture degree from the Universidad Nacional de Tucuman in his native Argentina.
“When I finished high school I was 16, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I was not aware that there was such a profession as architecture, but in looking at what the university offered, I came upon architecture. When I read the descriptions of all the required courses, I was incredibly intrigued and attracted. They seemed to be all the things that I was good at or enjoyed doing – drawing, history, painting, mathematics, art. So I decided to give it a try. When I started designing in school, I discovered that I had a knack for it. I fell completely in love with architecture, and I remain in love with it.”
Director Chasco, in introducing César to the dinner audience, noted he received his Master of Architecture from the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1954. His scholarship to come to the United States consisted of tuition at the University of Illinois School of Architecture, a plane ticket and a $95 a month stipend.
After a career in Architecture that spanned over six decades, including working for Eero Saarinen; Daniel Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall; Victor Green; Dean of the Yale School of Architecture while starting his own firm in 1977 now known at Pelli, Clark, Pelli.
Pelli has designed countless notable buildings. “Buildings are like my children. I work very hard not to have favorites.”
Pelli’s architecture is poetic, intellectual, spiritual, of the place and useful; traits that characterize his architecture as timeless. Beginning with his Deanship at Yale and after in the education of countless young architects, he has carried forward the Saarinen tradition of a constant search for an architecture of poetry and functionality.
He is a gentle soul, a tall man who carries a big stick – his pen - to sketch, fully informed by an inquisitive intellectually engaging mind that looks forward. He is a generous designer; he is content to surround himself with and collaborate with young but serious like-minded design talent.
Of course the best part of this recognition is that César started his American journey in Architecture at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, at the School of Architecture and the library he so loved. At Illinois he found an institution already steeped in educational history – a campus formally ordered with notable green spaces surrounded by profound edifices of learning. The University sat in the midst of the vast open prairie, a place spacious enough for big dreams that would launch the achievements of a notable career. Cesar’s career will be enshrined among the best of the best, alongside Nathan Ricker, the first alumnus of the School of Architecture.
Director David M. Chasco, FAIA