Radical Restraint

In 1997, the Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City announced that Yoshio Taniguchi had won a 10-entrant competition against world-famous architects like Bernard Tschumi and Rem Koolhaas to design the museum's $425 million overhaul. Around the world, art lovers and architecture mavens alike responded with a loud, bemused, "Who?" So unknown was the 67-year-old architect outside his native Japan that one confused well-wisher congratulated Terence Riley, MOMA's chief curator of architecture and design, on selecting "Tony Gucci," a nonexistent Italian architect.

But shed no tears for Taniguchi the Obscure. He prefers anonymity. Indeed, he kicked...

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