Nov 13, 2012

IM Pei's conservation project: Miho Museum

Recently there has been an on-going debate in Hong Kong surrounding the Government's decision to build a man-made beach on the remote Lun Mei rocky beach in Tai Po, the New Territories. Some environmentalists claimed that they found sea-horse, an endangered species, there, and urged the Government to scrap their plan. The Government's senior marine conservation officer said a three-day drill to relocate species from Lung Mei to the nearby Ting Kok east coast in July had been successful, with 20 marine animals being moved, and the department was confident the main exercise would go smoothly when beach construction began. But the environmentalists are adamant on their demand.

While the debate goes on, the remote beach became better known. It attracted some families for an weekend outing there, with some adults and kids acting less than friendly to the marine-lives found on the beach, turning stones, throwing them away from their natural habitat, catching them and even killing them, for a free-meal or just for the fun of doing it. The environmentalists were alarmed and have organized a 50-member "ecological guard" to monitor the site after they found remains of starfish and sea urchins littering the area.

That reminds me of a documentary that I saw many years ago featuring IM Pei's conservation effort when in the 1900s he designed the Miho Museum for Shumei, an Shinto organization founded by Mihoko Koyama, one of the wealthiest Japanese women and the lady who founded the religious group. The stunning thing about the documentary was that a whole mountain was moved piece by piece to an interim location, with its plants, soils and everything; until the museum was completed underground when all would be transported back to be reconstructed exactly as before. I believe only the Japanese can support and execute this grand conservation project with such vision and precision!

When IM Pei first saw the mountains, he exclaimed, "This is Shangri-La". And madam Mihoko (Miho being the name of the museum) agreed and spared no fund in supporting Pei's grand design to conserve one of Japan's many Shangri-Las. As its says on Miho's official website:

80% of the museum's structure is beneath the earth so as to preserve its natural environment and to assimilate it into the surrounding scenery. This unique design clearly demonstrates the intention of its architect, I. M. Pei, to create a paradise on earth. When he first visited the site, he was moved to declare, "This is Shangri-La."

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