The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is opening a new interactive learning centre for children on 9 September.
Designed by Koko Architecture + Design, the firm behind Greenwich Village’s Children’s Aid Society playgrounds and the Robot Garage in Detroit, the new facility, dubbed 81st Street Studio, will be a science and art play space for children between the ages of three and 11. The 3,500 sq. ft space will feature interactive displays that promote interdisciplinary and multi-sensory exploration of the Met’s collection by its youngest patrons.
"Education is a critical—and very exciting—part of the Met's mission, and we are proud to open the extraordinary new 81st Street Studio and further advance our role as a tremendously engaging resource for local and global communities," Max Hollein, the Met's director, said in a statement. "Through immersive activities, the Studio inspires children to explore connections between art and science, which is so valuable for creating a lifelong love and appreciation for art and artistic practices."
The 81st Street Studio articulates the connection between science and art to young people through material exploration, offering digital and analog experiences designed to stimulate creative growth and problem-solving. A non-circulating children’s library will be available alongside drop-in and self-directed art activities featuring rotating materials—inaugural activities will be inspired by wood, with visitors participating in woodblock carving, drum-making and learning about the material's physical principles.
A musical station, designed by Yamaha, will help visitors engage with the physical components of sound through a variety of instruments, including a standing guitar and a marimba. Hands-on building is also encouraged—cardboard boxes, fabric, Velcro and wheels will be provided on site. The Studio will also encourage kids to pick up a Met Field Guide, a packet of tools to guide exploration of the museum and Central Park.
The new education initiative was conceived by Heidi Holder, the Met's chair of education, in consultation with the museum's conservation, scientific research, curatorial, design, digital and capital projects departments. Bluecadet, an interactive design firm, contributed media and strategic digital oversight to the space.
"With its focus on interdisciplinary learning through the five senses, the 81st Street Studio is a further catalyst for how the Met engages with all visitors," Holder said in a statement. "It positions the museum as a place where visitors can make delightful discoveries, take risks and ask questions, activities that are imperative to reimaging the future role of museums in our communities."
This addition to the Met's educational offering is perhaps the smallest of many surgical upgrades in the works at the museum's Fifth Avenue campus. The museum is in the midst of a $70m revamp of its African, ancient American and Oceanic art galleries, which are expected to reopen in 2024. It is also working with architect Frida Escobedo on a $500m overhaul of its Modern and contemporary art wing.