Cesar Pelli is an Argentine-American architect known for designing the tallest building in the world and urban landmarks; notably the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the World financial centre in New York City, United States of America. He graduated from Universidad Nacional de Tucuman in 1949 and finished his Masters of Science (MSc) in architecture in 1954 from the University of Illinois School of Architecture. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) included him in the list of 10 most influential living architects and in 1995, awarded him with an AIA gold medal for his works.
Furthermore, he received The Lynn S.Beedle lifetime achievement award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). He became the dean of Yale School of Architecture between 1977-1984 in New Haven, a place where his firm Pelli Clarke Pelli took base.
Design and Life philosophy of Cesar Pelli
Cesar Pelli believed that buildings require the influence of the environment and the purpose of the building to generate a design utilising local materials and those specific materials that present solutions to a design problem; he discarded those based on ideologies. Thus, Pelli never stuck with a hallmark aesthetic design for buildings to have a prominent signature but what stood out from them was the ability to bring out design aesthetics that do not impose the surrounding buildings in the context. He resonated with humility even when his firm grew exponentially and created large-scale properties that gained critical acclaim to be iconic structures of contemporary architecture.
An observation marked throughout his internship that he developed and learnt to think outside the box that brought out creative and innovative solutions by formulating his original theories. In 1996, Cesar Pelli designed the most famous and highest skyscraper at that time; the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. It connected the new to old Malaysia representing the modern leap of the Malaysian cityscape while respecting and symbolising the Islamic past by the form of the building influenced by the Islamic culture. Therefore, highlighting his philosophy on heritage and context to make a building fit seamlessly into its surrounding bringing into effect the Universal design idea into mainstream practices.
Cesar Pelli stated that buildings require judgement based on how they make the city better or worse rather than adoring how beautiful it stands in isolation. Further explaining that his designs symbolise responsible and contributing citizens where the buildings manifested into reality become a piece or part of the cities. Therefore, apart from universal design aesthetics, spaces in it require to keep the needs of the ageing population and development of livable communities into consideration particularly in the role a building plays with the public; emphasising the need for architects to go above and beyond obligations and think of opportunities to better lives. In the Reagan Airport Terminal project, Cesar Pelli used contrasting light and dark colours to give visual clarity in the pathway, breaking the notion of restricted creativity towards accessibility design approaches. Thus, fabricating better lives for other people in some dimensions where citizens deserve the right to expect that from every building in the city to present themselves to be more humane in character and spaces. He stated that the design of a project never presents itself as a single idea; it is a process until the finish line just like one would start with a small plant and allow it to grow into a tree.
The range of projects done by him comprises the Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles; Expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Arts, World Financial Center and Winter Garden in New York City; Canary Wharf Towers in London, US Embassy, Japan. Each of his projects respond to the context with their idiosyncratic presence, for example, the highlight of Pacific Design Center focuses on material – reflective, opaque blue glass exterior and geometric design. He states that an architect needs to understand the design responsibility to strengthen the quality of a solace by being more adaptive to learning about the context, heritage and culture of the place.
The main objective to every project resided with making them work and enhancing the cities, towns they stood in and making beautiful scenarios. The fact that they eventually became iconic, marking Cesar’s name on the world for his immense contribution until he lived at the age of 92.
Another famously known project, the Aria Resort and Casino, a 62 storey structure with 4004 rooms. It consists of two curved glass tower buildings that utilise natural sunlight to showcase the beautiful interior features of reclaimed wood and native sandstone elements with a sustainable approach making it 30% more energy efficient than standard building codes. Pelli validates each project for the specific conditions it requires to create and merge information and data with feelings and emotions in a given moment. These two elements make the spine for buildings with horizontal levels that includes social functions and central access that connect the floors in the sky to Earth. A prominent outdoor and open space around the buildings exists to give it a desirable appeal.
Over 110 exemplary buildings designed around the globe by Pelli during a career that spanned 60 years where he states his projects are like his children and cannot pick a favourite one. Thus, finding architectural design and the process gratifying a dimension to his life that would be impossible to acquire when retired, so he continued to work until he died in July 2019. Re-collecting the fact that he moved to the United States at the age of 26 with 10 dollars in his pockets to be one of the most beloved architects who resonated simple character even when his practice went large and corporate. He once said, most designers and architects knew that some buildings spoke and some sang while many others remained mute; As society appreciates buildings that sing and spends money to visit Paris and Venice, the fact that these cities sing with architectural music. Therefore, architects must design each building over time to contribute to the total quality of the metropolis, a sense of harmony in the built environment.