As demonstrated in this early sketch by a member of I.M. Pei’s design team, the irregular shape of the building site itself presented the architects with the most significant challenge.
It took a flash of insight for Pei to realize the essential form his building would take and how to position it in relation to the West Building. He later recalled the moment: “I was returning to New York after a Gallery meeting in 1968 trying to find a solution to that difficult site. I sketched a trapezoid on the back of an envelope. I drew a diagonal line across the trapezoid and produced two triangles. That was the beginning.”