Frida Escobedo Selected to Design $500 Million Met Expansion

John Hill
14. March 2022
Frida Escobedo at Columbia GSAPP in 2014 (Photo: Columbia GSAPP/Flickr)

Today's announcement from The Met does not mention David Chipperfield, who was selected in March 2015 to design a new wing for the museum's collection of modern and contemporary art, but it does mention the donors the new wing will be named for: Oscar L. Tang and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang. Their $125 million gift came last year, enabling the Met now to follow through with its goal of reimagining the current modern and contemporary galleries and creating 80,000 square feet of galleries and public space. When Chipperfield was selected, no major donations were in place, and many reports speculated that that deficiency is what put the project on hold at the beginning of 2017. The price tag for the current project is estimated at $500 million.

Today's announcement of the Met selecting 42-year-old Mexican architect Frida Escobedo to renovate and expand the Oscar L. Tang and H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang Wing is an exciting and surprising one. The 152-year-old institution is opting for a young architect whose projects to date have been more temporary installations than permanent buildings. Establishing her eponymous practice in Mexico City in 2006, Escobedo was catapulted onto the international stage in 2018, when she was selected to design one such temporary installation: the high-profile Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London. The youngest architect to design one of the Serpentine Pavilions, she created a courtyard and pool with porous walls made from British-made cement roof tiles, a sort of British/Mexican hybrid.

While it's too early to know what shape Escobedo's design for The Met will take — an article at the New York Times indicates the project will be completed "in about seven years" — today's announcement indicates the plans "will result in a building that respects and connects with the Museum’s archipelago of architectural styles as well as its spatial organization and infrastructure." Echoing other art museums undergoing expansions recent years, such as MoMA with its new gallery circuit, "the wing will emphasize the interconnectedness of space and time and suggest a non-chronological narrative" through flexible gallery spaces.

Praise from The Met for Escobedo is high, with museum director Max Hollein saying: "Frida Escobedo is an outstanding architect of our time. In her practice, she wields architecture as a way to create powerful spatial and communal experiences, and she has shown dexterity and sensitivity in her elegant use of material while bringing sincere attention to today’s socioeconomic and ecological issues. Already through her partnership, Frida has demonstrated her vision to create enthralling galleries that will challenge the embedded hierarchies of our history and chart a more accessible trajectory for the new wing."

Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli, head of construction at The Met, continues the praise: "The Museum has several key mandates that drive this project and that have guided our search for an architect. 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."

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