On September 23, 2014, LA.IDEA was privileged to host César Pelli at the District Architecture Center for our second Maestros de Arquitectura & Tertulia. Maestros de Arquitectura is a unique lecture series created to recognize renowned Latin American architects for their professional accomplishments and personal journey as Latinos succeeding in the U.S. and around the world.
César Pelli was born on October 12, 1926 in the provincial city of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, and died on July 19, 2019 in New Haven, Connecticut at the age of 92. Pelli will be remembered as one of the 20th century’s preeminent architects and designer of world-beating skyscrapers.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the National University of Tucumán, Pelli moved to the United States to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a master’s degree in 1954. He began his professional career at the firm of Eero Saarinen and Associates in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Hamden, Connecticut, where among other projects, he worked on the Trans World Airlines Terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Pelli was Director of Design at Daniel, Mann, Johnson, & Mendenhall in Los Angeles from 1964 to 1968 and at Gruen Associates, from 1968 to 1977. During those years he perfected the technology of glass skins, producing buildings of lightweight, translucent quality. He served as Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University from 1977 to 1984 and established his own practice in 1977, Cesar Pelli and Associates (now Pelli Clarke Pelli) in New Haven, Connecticut. 1
Pelli was LA.IDEA’s 2014 Maestro de Arquitectura and gave an inspiring keynote address about his work to the local design community at the District Architecture Center. The evening began at 5:30 pm with aTertulia, a 50-minute intimate conversation in Spanish with our distinguished speaker. Members of LA.IDEA had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Pelli reflect back on his professional journey as an architect and ask him questions about his experiences. The Maestros de Arquitectura lecture followed at 6:30 pm and was open to all registrants. Pelli explained the process it took to complete some of his most well known projects such as Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the expansion and renovation of the MoMa in New York City, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and our own Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
After the lecture there was a Q&A session, followed by a reception. LA.IDEA thanks and remembers Cesar Pelli for his kindness and inspiration, our 2nd Maestro de Arquitectura. May he Rest in Peace.
“I believe it’s a mistake to have a style,” Pelli once said. “Us architects, today we work in too many different places, too many different uses … we need to be more responsive to what we do. We need to strengthen the quality of a place and not weaken it. If you do your own thing, you are weakening the quality of the place where you build.” -CP. 2