Proposed changes to Kevin Roche's Met Museum addition under review


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


New York
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In 1967, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates (KRJDA) was hired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to lead its museum planning an expansion an efforts. The firm continued in this role for the next four decades and completed a number of additions, including the Michael C. Rockefeller wing. The 40,000 square foot space located on the Museum's south side was completed by KRJDA in 1982 to house the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas department.

Current Renovation Efforts

In late 2018, the Met Museum announced its intent to renovate the Rockefeller wing "to reintroduce each of the three major world traditions represented in the department’s collection, displaying them as discrete elements in an overarching wing that is in dialogue with the Museum’s collections as a whole." While there have been some previous renovations over time, this is the first substantial overhaul of the space.

Because the museum borders the park, the project must be presented to all of the community boards whose neighborhoods border the park. The Museum is also a designated landmark, so any changes must go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Through a community board meeting, Docomomo US learned that the renovation efforts were set to go before the LPC for approval, and alerted Docomomo US/NY Tri-State, the Historic Disctricts Council, and Roche Modern (formerly named Roche Dinkeloo, the successor firm of KRJDA).

In its February 9th hearing (the same meeting where changes to the McGraw Hill building were heard), the LPC reviewed the proposed changes and heard public testimony, including that of Eamon Roche, Kevin Roche's son and the current managing director of Roche Modern, and John Arbuckle, president of Docomomo US/NY Tri-State, among others.

In a well-considered testimony, Eamon Roche laid out the main points of contention, which centered around the glass curtain wall, a defining feature of the space. Two proposed changes that drew particular attention were increasing the size of the glass panels and switching to a structural glazing system that would elimate the raised caps over the mullions. John Arbuckle explained this would have the effect of making the wall read "much more as one single flat plane of uninterrupted glass," in contrast to the original KRJDA concept, which intended the museum additions to be reminiscent of a greenhouse in a botanical garden - the kind of building one would expect to find in a park. Commissioner Anne Holford-Smith agreed that “If this was to be really treated as a greenhouse at a fine scale, then changing the scale of the glass and eliminating the mullions is something that we should not be doing.”

After this public testimony, the commissioners agreed to table the conversation in order to gather more information and make a decision. 

Docomomo US and its NY/Tri-State chapter will continue to follow the renovation efforts and will provide updates as they develop.