UAB’s Kirklin Clinic will forever connect Birmingham to the world’s most renowned architect I.M. Pei

The Kirklin Clinic
The Kirklin Clinic at UAB Hospital. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Earlier this week, architect I.M. Pei, passed away at the age of 102.

One of the world’s most revered architects, Pei built the controversial glass pyramid that serves as an entry for the Louvre in Paris. He designed countless public buildings, including the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and  Cleveland’s Roll and Roll Hall of Fame.

In Birmingham, Pei designed – The Kirklin Clinic at UAB Hospital.

Finished in 1992, The Kirklin Clinic is described by UAB, as a specially designed “superclinic” for outpatient medical care, housing hundreds of physicians in nearly three dozen specialties.  The Hospital is one of the busiest outpatient centers in America.

Two Buildings

Kirklin Clinic
The Kirklin Clinic at UAB Hospital. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Bill Keller, who served as executive director for the Alabama Press Association, noted in a recent Facebook post honoring the architect that Pei planned a building to “mirror” the present one.

“….Here in Birmingham, Pei designed one of our city’s best-known buildings, the Kirklin Clinic at UAB. His original plan also called for a mirror-image building to be built across from the clinic. A parking lot now occupies that space. In Washington, Pei’s sleek and angular design for the East Building of the National Gallery of Art created a stir when it opened in 2003, midst all those Greek and Roman Temple lookalikes. His work inspired many who appreciated intelligent and functional design, yet strikingly beautiful design. You can see that clean and functional design here inside Kirklin Clinic.”

Regrets Not Working Closer with Kirklin

In the book Architecture and Medicine about the Kirklin Clinic, Pei did express regrets not working closer with the clinic’s namesake and pioneering heart surgeon and researcher  UAB’s John Kirklin.

“My greatest regret in the whole thing was not getting to work closer with Dr. Kirklin. We never talked about the program, just about how the building would make people enjoy being there. I had the impression he was a true visionary.” ~ excerpt from Architecture and Medicine

Several local architecture firms in Birmingham worked with Pei over thirty years ago including Nimrod Long and Associates .

A Legacy

Kirklin Clinic
The Kirklin Clinic at UAB Hospital. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Not all cities are connected with the famous architects.

In Florence, Alabama there is a home which is now a tourist attraction designed by one of America’s most famous architects Frank Lloyd Wright.

In Birmingham, we have I.M. Pei’s Kirklin Clinic, a spacious, calming building that brings comfort to thousands of people daily.

What a fitting legacy.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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