The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will entrust the Mexican architect Frida Escobedo to oversee the renovation of its Modern and contemporary art wing. Escobedo, who is best-known for designing the Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens in 2018, was chosen from a pool of five renowned architecture firms, prevailing over David Chipperfield, Ensamble Studio, Lacaton and Vassal and SO-IL.
Plans for the mammoth $500m overhaul of the museum’s galleries for Modern and contemporary art have been brewing for more than a decade, but began coming into shape with the 2018 arrival of Max Hollein, the director of the Met, who has prioritised reimagining the museum’s approach to 20th- and 21st-century art.
Escobedo aligns with museum’s newly progressive vision by bringing an architectural practice that creates “powerful spatial and communal experiences”, and that will aim to “challenge the embedded hierarchies of our history and chart a more accessible trajectory for the new wing”, Hollein said in a statement.
Escobedo adds that the project “presents an opportunity to give new life to the museum”, with the potential to “celebrate the dynamics we can find within art of different times, geographies and ideologies, and to uncover new spaces for self-reflection and connection with others”.
Escobedo, born in 1979, earned her master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2016. She founded her Mexico City-based studio in 2006 and currently teaches at Yale University.
According to her website, Escobedo has “developed an approach based on the idea that architecture and design represent a crucial medium for raising questions and discussing social, economic, political and cultural phenomena”, and that “art, both contemporary and historical, serves as a starting point for the development of each project”.
Escobedo is the first woman to design a wing at the Met. She was the second woman chosen to design the Serpentine Pavilion, following Zaha Hadid in 2000, and also the youngest designer ever given the honour. Some of her other notable projects include the 2012 expansion of the former home and studio of David Alfaro Siqueiros in Cuernavaca, known as La Tallera Siqueiros, and a temporary Aztec-inspired installation for the courtyard of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2015.
The wing's renovation will add 80,000 sq. ft of galleries and public space and is named for the philanthropists and longtime museum trustees Oscar L. Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang. The couple pledged $125m to fund the transformation of the wing last year, marking the largest capital gift in the Met’s history.