César Pelli (1926–2019) was an Argentinean-born American architect who designed renowned skyscrapers. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) acclaimed him in 1991 as one of the ten most influential living American architects.
Born in the provincial city of San Miguel de Tucumán in northwest Argentina, Pelli studied architecture at the National University of Tucumán and married his fellow student, the landscape and urban designer Diana Balmori, in 1950. After securing a scholarship to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Pelli and his wife immigrated to America in 1952.
Pelli began his professional career with 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. He became a professor and the dean at the Yale School of Architecture in 1977, in which year he also started his own practice in New Haven, Connecticut.
Pelli is best known for his towering landmarks—ranging from high-rise office towers to private homes. His most distinguished buildings include New York’s World Financial Center (1985–87,) London’s Canary Wharf Tower (1990,) the New Terminal at Washington National Airport (1998,) Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers (1998,) Hong Kong’s International Finance Center (2003,) Osaka’s National Museum of Art (2005,) Madrid’s Torre de Cristal (2008,) and San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower (2018.)
The desire to reach for the sky runs deep in our human psyche.