After the dramatic earthquake that took place in 1995, the authorities of Hyogo prefecture and those of the city of Kobe proposed the reconstruction of the oceanfront of the city as a symbol of the physical and moral recovery of the community. For this symbol of renewal of a devastated city chose Tadao Ando to design two of the most noteworthy structures for the new neighborhood: a large municipal park on the ocean shore and the museum of fine art of the prefecture of Hyogo. The museum combines stone walls and three glass-enclosed volumes that receive the art display rooms. A passageway serves as functional interface between museum and park; the latter designed as refuge area in case of another earthquake. Its central zone doubles as the scene of recreational-cultural activities. The form of the building is very similar to that of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth which Ando was designing at the same time in Fort Worth, Texas. It was the museum in Kobe that served Ando as a prototype for the one in Fort Worth. The remarkable Ando has led a storied life, working as a truck driver and boxer prior to settling on the profession of architecture, despite never having taken formal training in the field. In 1995, Ando won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the highest distinction in the field of architecture..He donated the $100,000 prize money to the orphans of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Our editor was honored by a personal tour of the museum by its Director Shigenobu Kimura and two English speaking curators. The Museum exists not only for the appreciation of fine art, but also for encouraging exchanges between art and music, theater, film and for holding a wide variety of events.
The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art opened in April of 2004. The museum's holdings consist of the collection held by the former Museum of Modern Art, a collection amassed over the past 30 years. The museum's 27,500 sq. meters of exhibition space makes it Japan's second-largest art venue, after the cavernous Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art. The Hyogo museum showcases this strategy. It presents an initially forbidding, featureless facade to the visitor approaching from nearby train stations, but turns an immense glass frontage to the sea; light is funneled down to inner spaces by glass-roofed atria and an open unique central staircase. All that space is well used. The complex's many public amenities include a 250-seat cinema for film screenings, two large studios available to professional and (at no charge) amateur artists, a lecture theater and an Art Information Center, part library and part multimedia research center. Selections from the museum's collection of more than 17,000 pieces, especially strong in the areas of print and sculpture, both Japanese and foreign, are rotated in the Permanent Exhibition galleries. Also impressive is the small but brilliantly conceived interactive display, "Form in Art," which gives the visually impaired the chance to get hands on with sculpture by Henry Moore and Jean Miro, among others, and new works by Mitsushima Takayuki inspired by the sculptures. More than a symbol of the rebirth of one city, though, this superb cultural center is an asset to the entire region. This Museum is an amuseum: a place of information. In order to create a modern, functional facility that encompasses a worldview, the Museum is arranging exhibitions of fine art from all over the globe, ranging from ancient times to the present day. With this distinctive approach, the Museum welcomed over one million visitors in its first year, and activities there have continued to progress at a fine pace. This year the Museum hosted a wide variety of exhibitions including the Dresden National Art Museum Exhibition, the Gustave Moreau Exhibition, the New Silk Road Exhibition, the Dutch Masters from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Exhibition and the Shuji Yamada Exhibition.