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DECEMBER 20, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 24

The Best Design of 1999

1 The Reichstag, Berlin For more than half a century the parliament building stood as a grim reminder of the furies Germany once unleashed. Yet following the nation's reunification, the government decided to resettle the legislature back in the home the Nazis torched in 1933. Who better suited to resurrect such a troubled monument than Sir Norman Foster? The 1999 Pritzker Prize-winning architect preserved signs of the Reichstag's dark history, from the bullet holes left by invading Soviet troops to the graffiti that spilled over from the nearby Berlin Wall. At the same time he reconstructed original passages and even punched in new skylights. As a coup de grace, Foster reflected the openness and transparency of modern Germany by capping his work with a beehive-shaped glass cupola, complete with a spiraling ramp for those wishing to keep an eye on their elected officials. The building is not only democratically disposed, but also ecologically sound. Foster, who in 1991 installed natural ventilation instead of air conditioning in his Frankfurt Commerzbank building, converted the Reichstag's fossil-fuel heating and cooling system into one that uses renewable vegetable oils; excess heat is pumped into the aquifers below and stored for use in the winter. By doing this, Foster cut the building's carbon dioxide emissions by 94%--and did his part to fight global warming

The Best (and Worst) of 1999
What will stick in the collective memory is the best and worst of our own fin de siècle, and 1999 had a bumper crop of winners and some memorable bummers as well


Macau: Macau's Big Gamble
The Portuguese colony's return to China will be a low-key affair. The real fireworks will begin when the new owners try to clean up the joint
Extended Interview: 'We Will Make the Triads Uncomfortable'
In his temporary government office, Macau Chief Executive-designate Edmund Ho spoke about the future of the territory with TIME

Japan: A Fairy-Tale Ending?
After years of waiting, Japan's royal-watchers are thrilled over hints that the Princess may be pregnant

2 The Emperor and The Assassin So what if the film didn't make our top-10 cinema list? Movie critics don't know everything. Its stylish look earns it our Oscar for Design. Created by director Chen Kaige and production designer Tu Juhua, the brutal tale of Em Ying Zheng's obsession to unify China puts Cecil B. DeMille to shame. With its cast of tens of thousands and a hauntingly rich palate of imperial palaces, thick silk brocade and battlegrounds soaked in blood, the film is a Chinese feast that only makes you crave more.

3 Garden Pavilion, Germany At first Zaha Hadid's newest creation at a flower exhibition in Weil Am Rhein seems just an inspired piece of landscaping--gently sloping paths from which to smell the roses. But as visitors saunter up the concrete ramps, they realize that they really are on the roof of the Baghdad-born architect's new garden house, a partly submerged building that is both wilderness path and home to exhibition halls and a restaurant. What better way to become one with nature?

4 Palais De Justice, Bordeaux Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Inherit the Wind. As an extension to the 19th-century neoclassical courts, Sir Richard Rogers has created a living body for the law. An exoskeleton made of steel, the add-on is bursting with pod-shaped wooden chambers that jut from the undulating roof and echo nearby medieval towers. Lit through oval skylights, these tapered halls are true wombs of justice.

5 iBook Have computer, will travel. First Apple made its machines fun to look at with the iMac. Next up was the iBook, a 300-MHz laptop in blueberry or tangerine, with built-in handle for toting it to campus or boardroom. Best of all, the iBook has no latches to break off or detachable devices to misplace, so it can withstand the abuses of everyday use. This is a computer for those on the go-go.

6 Radio City Music Hall, New York City Kick up your heels. Rockefeller Center's cultural mecca for the masses and home to the Rockettes had been looking stage-weary until architect Hugh Hardy spruced up the 6,000-seat 1932 Art Deco entertainment palace. As he so seamlessly did at the New Amsterdam and the New Victory theaters on 42nd Street, Hardy stripped Radio City's walls down to their bare bones, restored or recreated the upholstery and the curtains, regilded the ceilings and showed that the old hoofer still has a few high-steps left in her.

7 Il Cavallo Poor Leonardo da Vinci. The Renaissance artist had bad luck when it came to getting work finished. In 1493 he showed off a model of a grand equestrian statue only to have it destroyed by invading French troops. Half a millennium later, Japanese-American sculptor Nina Akamu has realized Leonardo's dream, unveiling, in Milan, Italy and Grand Rapids, Michigan, two seven-m-tall trotting beasts inspired by Leonardo, their manes a mass of curls that evoke the master's fascination with clouds and waves.

8 Alfred Lerner Hall, New York City It seems almost subversive. Bernard Tschumi, who studied in Paris during the 1968 student uprisings, has erected at Columbia University a student center that recalls the turmoil that swept the New York institution that same year. While the hall's red brick side walls pay homage to the orderly Beaux Arts campus, Tschumi has fronted the structure with a glass court that appears strung together with hanging ramps and steel trusses. In the process he has represented the off-balance feeling that college can instill and fashioned a front-row window to let students look out at the evolving urban theater.

Urbano Delvalle

9 Commes Des Garçons 2 The silver perfume bottle by Japan's Rei Kawakubo and France's Marc Atlan doesn't stand up. Instead it lies seductively on its curved side. With its aboriginal-like swirl marking, it looks something like a pebble or a sacred talisman one might happen upon in a shallow brook, cradle in one's palm and slip into a pocket for luck or as a sweet-smelling keepsake.

Urbano Delvalle

10 Ekco Clip'n Stay Clothes Pin There are certain objects that don't seem improvable. Think of the mousetrap or book or umbrella. Well, the American design firm Ancona 2, believe it or not, has created a better clothes pin. Improving on the old three-piece wooden model, they molded for EKCO Housewares a one-piece teardrop pin that doesn't twist out of shape or rust. And it adds a bit of color to the wash.


Urbano Delvalle

Air Flightposite: Nike touts this hyperthin basketball sneaker with the zippered top as "the most innovative basketball shoe on the planet." Yet the model with metallic siding looks as if it would be more at home in a small-town production of the Nutcracker than on the pirouetting feet of the gods of the National Basketball Association. If this is the "next generation of hoop product," then bring back flat canvas gym shoes.

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