Appetite for Destruction

Fritz Hoffmann/Network for TIME.

Wrecking crews hover on the doorstep of the Pei family's stately mansion.

Architectural tradition, master builder I.M. Pei once said, is a living force that animates the present. For the Shanghai relatives of the man who created the Louvre's pyramids and Hong Kong's sleek Bank of China building, that tradition is rooted at 25 Huangpi South Road, where five generations of the Pei family have made their home since 1911. During his student years in that rollicking city, the budding architect visited the graceful three-story mansion often and drew inspiration from its French colonial touches and lush gardens. "This house holds my family's soul," says Pei's cousin Bei Nianzheng, who was born in...

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