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The former bedroom on the second floor (left) looked into the stair hall. This level, with original plank floors, is now partially enclosed by a white metal-mesh screen (above). It is devoted to display, storage, and an apartment for Mrs. Murai.

The former bedroom on the second floor (left) looked into the stair hall. This level, with original plank floors, is now partially enclosed by a white metal-mesh screen (above). It is devoted to display, storage, and an apartment for Mrs. Murai.

pattern bears a strong resemblance to the wood louvers that Kuma often uses in his architecture.

Below the slat-covered upper wall, the plate-glass facade's smooth surface is interrupted only by the front entrance. The huge window wall looks out at two, 6-inch-deep pools separated by the walkway leading up from the street. It was Kuma's idea to place Masanari's treasured Toyota, one of the carmaker's earliest models, in one of the ponds. Though the car has not been driven since the early 1970s, Masanari kept it in his garden. "We just enjoyed looking at the car getting older and changing color amid nature," explains Mrs. Murai.

Commentary

In Japan today, very few people share Mrs. Murai's sentiment when it comes to holding onto old architecture. And retrofitting existing structures to comply with the country's stringent earthquake code can be daunting even to the most determined preservationist. "It frequently costs more to renovate than to start over," says Kuma, who notes that "clients here are just beginning to understand the value of renovation." Since the old building had to be virtually demolished to build the new museum, this project goes beyond what you might call an "extreme makeover." Still, Kuma's building succeeds in preserving the spirit of the artist and his unique house. ■

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