In 1991, I.M. Pei accepted the commission from Mrs. Koyama. When Pei saw the mountainous location that the Miho Museum would be, Mr. Pei recalled a classic Chinese poetry entitled the “Peach Blossom Spring” written by Tao Yuan Ming in the 4th century. Pei’s idea was to bring the joy of discovering the Peach Blossom to visitors at their arrival.
The most formidable difficulties was providing access to the mountainous site. The next one was to accommodate the 187,500 sq ft of space and to preserve the landscape of the mountains.
Pei decided to provide a theatrical sense of arrival using a combination of a 660 ft tunnel dug through an adjacent mountain and a 400 ft bridge to achieve the goal of the “discovery of” the Peach Blossom Spring and the access to the mountainous site. So, he designed a single “king post” set to support this bridge, then stretched from one angle into the mountain slope.
To preserve the landscape of the mountains, Pei’s solution was to remove the top of the mountain where the museum was to be located; and after inserting the building, he wanted to replace the mountain along with 7,000 trees and other plantings. As a result, 80% of the building is below ground; that is 17,400 square meter building is situated underground, carved out of a rocky mountaintop.
Inside of the Museum:
“I think you can see a very conscious attempt on my part to make the silhouette of the building comfortable in the natural landscape.”
~ I.M. Pei
“Having won every award of any consequence in his art, Pei stands alone as the most distinguished member of his Late-Modernist generation still in practice. And what most distinguishes his practice is that it has never ceased to grow, or to change. “
When Mr. Pei completed this massive architecture in 1997, he was 80 years old.
The Peach Blossom Spring: There once lived a fisherman in Eastern China. One day, as he was rowing up a mountain stream, he came across a peach orchard in full bloom. At the end of the orchard, he noticed a ray of light coming from a small cave at the foot of a mountain. Once inside, he found himself on a narrow road, but traveling deeper, a splendid view suddenly opened before him. There was the Shangri-La.
Reference: I.M. Pei : A Profile in American architecture by Carter Wiseman
I did a post of the Mihon Museum in 2013, which was the 3rd post for Pei’s Architecture series. For this one, I used a new set of photos. If I am lucky, I may get to see this museum someday.