Photo by Diane Picchiottino on Unsplash

Three-part series of talks invites the architects leading major projects at The Met to share their stories about previous projects, insights into architectural innovations, and the process of design

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently undertaking the renovation of one quarter of its gallery system. This fall, The Met will invite the three architects leading these distinct projects to participate in MetSpeaks: Designing Tomorrow’s Met, a three-part series of onstage conversations with Met curators. The first talk, on Thursday October 20, is with Frida Escobedo, lead architect for the Oscar L. Tang and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang Wing, in conversation with David Breslin, the Museum’s newly appointed Leonard A. Lauder Curator in Charge of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. Nader Tehrani, lead architect for the renovation of the galleries for Ancient Near Eastern and Cypriot Art will speak with Kim Benzel, Curator in Charge of Ancient Near Eastern Art, and Sean Hemingway, John A. and Carole O. Moran Curator in Charge of Greek and Roman Art, on Thursday, November 17. Kulapat Yantrasast, lead architect for the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, which houses art from sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the ancient Americas, will speak with Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator for African Art and Curator in Charge of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, on December 6. 

Designing Tomorrow’s Met is made possible by the Director’s Fund. 

“These major architectural projects represent The Met’s commitment to the continual reevaluation and reconsideration of how we present the Museum’s vast collection of art from around the world and across time,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “Frida Escobedo, Nader Tehrani, and Kulapat Yantrasast are leading forces in their field and outstanding architects of our time, and each has a unique design language and deeply informed process for approaching these historic projects. The talks are sure to provoke insightful and forward-thinking reflections and ideas.”

The series will take place at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Met. Each event will begin with opening remarks by Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, followed by a presentation by the architect. The event will conclude with a conversation with Met curators and an audience Q&A with the architects about their practice. Talks are free; advance registration is required.

Throughout The Met’s 152-year history, its buildings and spaces have been a key part of the relationship between people, objects, and ideas. Situated between Central Park and Fifth Avenue, the Museum is uniquely positioned to engage with today’s most pressing architectural considerations, such as natural elements, sustainability, urban planning, and civic engagement. These renovation projects will evolve The Met’s historical landscape into a space that is both contemporary and reflective of a spirit of innovation. 

MetSpeaks: Designing Tomorrow’s Met—Frida Escobedo 
Thursday, October 20, 2022, 6pm 
The Oscar L. Tang and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang Wing 

The Met announced plans to fully reimagine its current galleries for modern and contemporary art in November 2021. The Oscar L. Tang and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang Wing project, led by architect Frida Escobedo, will create enthralling new galleries for the art of the 20th and 21st centuries that challenge the embedded hierarchies of our history and chart a more accessible trajectory for the new wing.

In this conversation, Escobedo will discuss her unique practice of wielding architecture to create powerful spatial and communal experiences. Audiences will gain a deeper understanding of the dexterity and sensitivity that informs her elegant use of material, and the talk will also shed light on today’s socioeconomic and ecological issues and the solutions discovered through architecture. 

MetSpeaks: Designing Tomorrow’s Met—Nader Tehrani 
November 17, 2022, 6pm 
Ancient Near Eastern and Cypriot Art

The Met has partnered with Boston-based architectural firm NADAAA, led by principal designer Nader Tehrani, for the renovation of its galleries for Ancient Near Eastern and Cypriot Art. The renovation is unique in its development of a radical and enduring way to re-present the objects in a manner that resonates with the materials that are foundational to both regions. 

In his talk, Tehrani will delve into his unique and innovative vision for the renovation. Over a career that spans nearly three decades, Tehrani has been dedicated to researching materiality, labor, and technology as forms of cultural production. In planning the new galleries, he strives to contextualize a framework for the works of art, alluding to their original time and place. An example is his incorporation of clay and copper, materials that are foundational to the world views of both regions. Using architecture as the cultural armature that binds the lessons of our past to the challenges we face today, the renovation will become another lens through which to view The Met collection itself. The new galleries are scheduled to open in 2026. 

MetSpeaks: Designing Tomorrow’s Met—Kulapat Yantrasast
December 6, 2022, 6pm 
Michael C. Rockefeller Wing; Arts of sub-Saharan Africa; Arts of Oceania; and the Ancient American Arts

Nearly 50 years after the groundbreaking of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, conceived to usher much of the world’s creative brilliance into an expanded Museum campus, The Met is engaged in execution of a plan to reimagine its galleries for the arts of sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the ancient Americas. The new galleries seek to reintroduce these three major world traditions concentrated in a Wing that represents a global crossroads. 

In 2019, The Met began a complete renovation of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing in partnership with architect Kulapat Yantrasast, founder of WHY, who has dedicated his career and practice to cultural inclusivity. For the unique challenge of equitably articulating three distinct but adjacent suites of galleries united under a single wing of the Museum—the arts of sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the ancient Americas—Yantrasast’s solution has been to develop aesthetically customized yet complementary galleries for each of these art histories, defined by their own spatial qualities and relationship to light. His design reimagines and reintroduces these three major world traditions in dialogue with The Met collection as a whole. The new galleries are scheduled to open in early 2025.