The modernist architect IM Pei, who was once pilloried for plonking a glass pyramid into the courtyard of the Louvre, turns 100 Wednesday with his controversial creation now an icon of the French capital.
The Chinese-American designer endured a roasting from critics before the giant glass structure opened in 1989, with up to 90 percent of Parisians said to be against the project at one point.
"I received many angry glances in the streets of Paris," Pei later said, confessing that "after the Louvre I thought no project would be too difficult."
Yet in the end even that stern critic of modernist "carbuncles," Britain's Prince Charles, pronounced it "marvellous."
And the French daily Le Figaro, which had led the campaign against the "atrocious" design, celebrated its genius with a supplement on the 10th anniversary of its opening. Pei's masterstroke was to link the three wings of the world's most visited museum with vast underground galleries bathed in light from his glass and steel pyramid.
Pei, who grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai before studying at Harvard with the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, was not the most obvious choice for the job, having never worked on a historic building before.
But the then French president Francois Mitterrand was so impressed with his modernist extension to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC that he insisted he was the man for the Louvre.
Already in his mid-60s and an established star in the US for his elegant John F. Kennedy Library and Dallas City Hall, nothing had prepared Pei for the hostility of the reception his radical plans would receive. He needed all his tact and dry sense of humor to survive a series of encounters with planning officials and historians. One meeting with the French historic monuments commission in January 1984 ended in uproar, with Pei unable to present his ideas.
"You are not in Dallas now!" one of the experts shouted at him during what he recalled was a "terrible session," where he felt the target of anti-Chinese racism. Not even Pei's winning of the Pritzker Prize, the "Nobel of architecture" in 1983, seemed to assuage his detractors.