The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced Sunday that the Mexico City-based architect Frida Escobedo will undertake a $500 million redesign of its modern and contemporary art wing. Escobedo, 42, reportedly edged out better-known firms including David Chipperfield Architects, SO-IL, Ensamble Studio, and 2021 Pritzker laureates Lacaton & Vassal for the prestigious commission.
The proposed renovation and expansion of the Met’s modern and contemporary wing was first announced in May 2014, but the project failed to take off due to sluggish fundraising. Escobedo is effectively succeeding Chipperfield’s firm, which was initially selected in 2015 to design the expansion but whose plans reportedly had ballooned in cost up to $800 million. In December, a $125 million donation from trustees Oscar L. Tang and his wife Agnes Hsu-Tang—the largest in the museum’s history—finally restarted the long-awaited redesign.
Escobedo received her architecture degree from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and holds a Master in Design Studies from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She is well known for her temporary installations at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in 2018, she designed the Serpentine Pavilion in London. The Met commission will be by far her largest and most visible project to date.
Details of the design have yet to be released, but the space will be called the Oscar L. Tang and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang Wing. It will add 80,000 square feet of gallery space to the Met’s footprint, which the museum says it has needed since the Frick Collection took over the former Whitney Museum by Marcel Breuer on Madison last year, most recently known as the Met Breuer. The new wing is intended to permanently house a collection of 78 Cubist masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Fernand Léger, which were donated to the museum by collector Leonard A. Lauder in 2013.
“The museum has several key mandates that drive this project and that have guided our search for an architect,” said Met head of construction Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli in a statement. “Frida understands how to create an enduring space for art while reconciling the wing’s relationship with the existing building and park. Additionally, her work draws from multiple cultural narratives, values local resources, and addresses the urgent socioeconomic inequities and environmental crises that define our time.”
The existing Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, which was designed by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA), has been the designated space for the museum’s collection of 20th-century art since its 1987 opening. But the design of the wing—one of many projects KRJDA completed at the museum—has long been the subject of criticism: “It is merely a muddle, and not one conducive to the contemplation of art,” wrote Joseph Giovannini for ArtForum in 1987.
"The Met is one of the most relevant sites for culture on a global scale, and it is an honor to be selected for this historic architectural reimagining,” said Escobedo in a statement. “The Tang Wing presents an opportunity to give new life to the museum's art from the 20th and 21st century; 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. I look forward to working with the Met's teams on this remarkable project."