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 > summer special 2000
For the year 2000

The Best Government Reformer
How Asia Is Governed
The Best Local Administrator
The Best Activist

The Best Dealmaker
The Best IPO
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The Best Advocate of Shareholder Rights
The Best Fund Manager
The Best Cost Cutter

The Best Airport
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In Tune with Nature
The Best Forest Preserve
The Best City Park
The Best Transport
The Best Green Test
The Best Marine Preserve
The Best Marine Park

The Hottest Video Game
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The Hottest Fad
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The Best Movie
The Best Short Film


25 Years  Intro |  Democrat |  Film |  Architecture | Book  25 Years

The Best Architecture

Hidden among the pine-covered hills of the Japanese countryside, about an hour's drive from Kyoto, is Asia's finest new building. The Miho Art Museum was completed in 1997 and is the best work yet from the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. He is known for the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris and the towering Bank of China building in Hong Kong. There is nothing towering about this building. All that is visible among the hills are the glass skylights designed to look like the roofs of traditional Japanese temples. About 80% of the structure is underground.

The building is remarkable for the way it blends in with the surrounding nature preserve and how it harmonizes with the collection it houses. "The museum skillfully integrates building position, scale and shape to enhance the visitor's contemplation," says Gunawan Tjahjono, professor of architecture at the University of Indonesia. The task of integrating the collection may have been made easier since much of it was acquired during the building's design and construction. Pei himself persuaded the owners to add fine works of Greek, Roman and Egyptian art to the assemblage of Japanese art.

The museum is owned by the Shinji Shumeikai, one of Japan's "new religions," which seems to have unlimited resources. The building was twice as expensive to build as Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, for example. That doesn't count the cost of the collection which includes a unique 3,200-year-old cult statue of a falcon-headed deity, said to be the most expensive Egyptian artifact ever sold. The Miho (after the founder, Koyama Mihoko) is difficult to reach, but few who make the pilgrimage feel it wasn't worth the experience.

— Todd Crowell

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