Cesar Pelli, Creator of the Petronas Towers

Argentina Born American Architect, b. 1926

Architect Cesar Pelli in 2009
Architect Cesar Pelli in 2009. Photo by Janette Pellegrini / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images (cropped)

Cesar Pelli has become known as a master designer of public spaces such as the Commons of Columbus (1970-1973) in Columbus, Indiana, the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center (1980-1989) in New York, and Founders Hall (1987-1992) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Some critics say that Pelli's public rooms contribute to modern-day life in the same way the Italian piazza shaped life in the 16th century.

Pelli and his colleagues are often praised for using a wide variety of materials and designs, seeking new solutions for each location. Believing that buildings should be "responsible citizens," Pelli strives to design buildings that work within the surrounding city.

In 1997, Pelli's design for the Petronas Towers was erected in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Petronas Towers are among the tallest buildings in the world.


Born: October 12, 1926 in Tucuman, Argentina. Cesar Pelli emigrated to the United States in 1952 and later became a U.S. citizen.

Education and Professional:

  • Diploma in Architecture, University of Tucuman, Argentina
  • Master in Architecture, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign
  • 1977: Founded Cesar Pelli & Associate, renamed Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects in 2005
  • 1977-1984: Professor and Dean of the Yale University School of Architecture

After completing his Master's degree in architecture, Pelli spent ten years working in the offices of Eero Saarinen. He served as Project Designer for the TWA Flight Center 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 (DMJM) in Los Angeles, and from 1968 to 1976 he was Partner for Design at Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. While at Gruen, Pelli is known to have collaborated with Norma Merrick Sklarek on a number of works, including the US Embassy in Tokyo. Cesar Pelli & Associates was founded in 1977.

Pelli Skyscrapers and Towers:

Pelli Museums and Theaters:

  • 1984: Mattatuck Museum, at Waterbury, Connecticut
  • 1987: Charlotte Performing Arts Center, at Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 1987-1990: Carnegie Hall Tower, at New York, New York
  • 1991: Ohio Center for Performing Arts, at Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1996: Cinema in Celebration, Florida
  • 2006: Carnival Center, now called the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami, Florida
  • 2006: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and Samueli Theater, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa, Orange County, California
  • 2008: BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • 2009: Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, Connecticut

Notable Pelli Architecture:

  • 1966: Worldway Postal Center, at Los Angeles, California
  • 1967: COMSAT Laboratories, at Clarksburg, Maryland
  • 1967: Kukai Gardens Housing, at Honolulu, Hawaii
  • 1969: San Bernardino City Hall, at San Bernardino, California
  • 1975: Pacific Design Center, at Los Angeles, California
  • 1976: US Embassy, Tokyo, Japan
  • 1982-1984: Herring Hall, at Rice University, Houston, Texas
  • 2005: Malone Engineering Center at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2006: Minneapolis Central Library, Minnesota
  • 2009: ARIA Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • 2017: Transbay Transit Center, San Francisco, California

Selected Awards:

Cesar Pelli has received more than 200 architecture awards. Some highlights:

  • 1995: Gold Medal, AIA (American Institute of Architects)
  • 2004: The Aga Khan Award for the design of the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 2008: Lynn S. Beedle Award, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Board of Trustees

Quotation - In the Words of Cesar Pelli:

"A building must be both background and foreground. As foreground, it must have some exceptional qualities. But it must also try very hard to knit into the fabric of the city."

Learn More:

  • Observations for Young Architects by Cesar Pelli, Monacelli Press, 1999
  • Petronas Towers: The Architecture of High Construction by Cesar Pelli and Michael J. Crosbie, Wiley-Academy Press, 2001
  • Cesar Pelli: Selected and Current Works by Cesar Pelli, 1994

Source: Cesar Pelli FAIA, RIBA, JIA, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects Webstie [accessed October 12, 2015]

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "Cesar Pelli, Creator of the Petronas Towers." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/cesar-pelli-creator-petronas-towers-177842. Craven, Jackie. (2020, August 26). Cesar Pelli, Creator of the Petronas Towers. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/cesar-pelli-creator-petronas-towers-177842 Craven, Jackie. "Cesar Pelli, Creator of the Petronas Towers." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/cesar-pelli-creator-petronas-towers-177842 (accessed January 24, 2021).