Cesar Pelli Always Looks Forward to the Next Project

Cesar Pelli

Great design arises from sincere collaboration with a client and a deep respect for a project's environmental, economic and social contexts—Cesar Pelli

Winter Garden Woolworth

Born in Argentina, Cesar Pelli is a world renowned architect best known for designing some of the world's tallest buildings and major urban landmarks. Pelli is often praised for using a wide variety of materials and designs, seeking new solutions for each location. He believes that buildings should be responsible citizens and that the aesthetic qualities of a building should grow from the specific characteristics of each project such as its location, its construction technology, and its purpose.

After graduating in architecture at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Pelli emigrated to the United States and completed his masters in architecture in 1954 at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois. He started his career in the New Haven offices of architect Eero Saarinen and spent ten years there. He served as Project Designer for the TWA Terminal Building at JFK Airport in New York and Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale University. He later became Director of Design at Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall in Los Angeles, and from 1968 to 1976 he was Partner for Design at Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. In 1977, he founded his own firm, Cesar Pelli & Associates in New Haven and became dean of Yale University School of Architecture. He resigned as dean in 1984 but continues to lecture and write extensively on architectural issues. In 2005, in recognition of the increased role of the firm's principals, Pelli firm was renamed as Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.


Pelli has designed many of the world's most recognizable buildings, including the World Financial Center in New York, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, and the International Finance Center in Hong Kong. The award-winning portfolio includes academic buildings, libraries, museums, research centers, residences and master plans. The breadth of their work reflects the belief that a firm must not be constrained by a signature style. Rather, great design arises from sincere collaboration with a client and a deep respect for a project's environmental, economic and social contexts. According to Pelli, "I always look forward to the next project. That is one of the wonderful things about architecture."

His contributions in the field of architecture are briefed here.

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Twin Towers (also known as the Petronas Towers or just Twin Towers) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is a modern expression of Malaysia's culture, history and climate and symbols of its economic growth. The plan of the towers is generated from two overlapping squares that form an 8-pointed star, a pattern frequently found in Islamic design.

Each of the twin Petronas Towers is 88 stories and clad in panels of glass and stainless steel that softly reflect the native light. Between the two towers is a powerful, figural void. To activate this space—the center of the composition—a two-story bridge was added at the 41st and 42nd floors, structured by angled brackets that shape the space and accentuate the vertical thrust of the towers. This "sky lobby" is connects the buildings and contains spaces shared by both, including elevator lobbies, a conference center, and a prayer room.

Although designed and built before sustainability was a common design priority, the towers' design conserves energy through attention to climate and location. Shading devices are built into the façade at every story to take advantage of Malaysia's high sun angle, a traditional practice in tropical architecture. In addition, laminated glass was used to reflect radiation away from the interiors and minimize heat gain, thus reducing the use of air-conditioning.

Transbay Transit Center and Tower, San Francisco, California, USA

Transbay Transit Center and Tower

Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli architects, Transbay Transit Center and Tower aspire to become two of San Francisco's great buildings, expressing through architecture, engineering, and urban design the spirit of the neighborhood, city, and region. The Tower incorporates several green building strategies including passive solar shading, high performance glazing, geothermal cooling, and wind power.

One park west, Liverpool, England

One Park West Liverpool
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, in collaboration with BDP, is the master planner and urban designer for the development area known as Liverpool One. The project is a large, retail-led mixed-use development with areas of varying scale and use. The plan is expected to improve Liverpool's status as a special city of regional and national importance.

One Park West, a landmark residential building and the jewel in the crown of Liverpool One, stands tall at 17-storeys. Its 326 apartments offer stunning views over Chavasse Park, Liverpool's two glorious cathedrals and its world famous waterfront.

The building is a concrete frame construction, clad in a modern clear and opaque glazed curtain wall. This has expressed horizontal floor levels and raked and vertical mullions which allow recessed glazed sections, designed to give the elevation a texture that responds to the movement of the sun. The raked mullion reflects the tower corner feature and from first floor level repeats at each third storey to provide further elevation order and character.

According to Cesar Pelli, "We wanted to create a modern, striking building. A memorable place to live, with exceptional views on a wonderful park. I hope it will become part of the heritage of this amazing city."

BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

BOK Center Tulsa Oklahoma

Designed by Cesar Pelli the BOK Center is an 18,000-seat multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue that brings national and international events to Tulsa and the surrounding region.

Pelli was asked by Tulsa city officials to create an arena that would be an architectural icon. The bold and unique architectural design of BOK Center reflects the client's desire. Large, sweeping glass and stainless steel walls spiral around the arena, dynamically tilting in elevation and section. The architectural language resonates with Tulsa's Native American past, but the modern materials and scale look to the future. Lobbies and entrances are situated where the walls overlap and separate, pulling visitors into the spiraling space, directing their attention to the event inside and the city outside. The large expanses of glass will allow the building to be light-filled during the day, and a glowing beacon at night—the exterior lighting changes colors.

International Finance Centre, Hong Kong, China

International Finance Centre
Cesar Pelli was selected to design Two International Finance Centre (IFC) after winning an international design competition. Two IFC was the tallest building in Hong Kong, until the completion of International Commerce Centre in 2007. Its height accentuated by its waterfront site, the entire form visible as it stands apart from the cluster of other skyscrapers.

The building has a clear and memorable presence, a great obelisk at the scale of the city. With its carefully proportioned setbacks, its centric form tapers as it rises, expressing a vertical ascending movement. The surface articulation of the curtain wall reinforces the verticality of the design. The vertical window mullions are shaped like airfoils, tracing sharp lines from base to crown. The tower is clad in lightly reflective vision glass and fritted spandrel glass that softens the tower's surface. With specially formulated silver pearl-colored paint on the aluminum components, the tower glows warmly against the peak and the city.

Awards & Recognition

The work of Pelli Clarke Pelli has been internationally recognized with over 100 awards for design excellence, including over 40 design awards from National, Regional and local chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

In 1991, Cesar Pelli was selected as one of the 10 most influential living American architects. In 1995, the American Institute of Architects awarded Mr. Pelli the Gold Medal, in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished achievement in architecture. In 2004, Mr. Pelli was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the design of the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Pelli has also written extensively on architectural issues. In 1999 he wrote Observations for Young Architects, published by the Monacelli Press. His work has been widely published and exhibited, with nine books and several issues of professional journals dedicated to his designs and theories. He has received twelve Honorary Degrees, over 200 awards for design excellence and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Design, the International Academy of Architecture, and of l'Academie d'Architecture de France.

In 2007, Duke University commissioned him to plan a 20- to 50-year revitalization of its Central Campus. On 26 May 2008, Yale University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Arts degree to Pelli for his work in Architecture.