For the Departments of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Greek & Roman Art, this project represents an important opportunity to rethink the way it presents the collection it stewards for the first time since the early 1980s. In doing so, the Department aims to celebrate the formative cultural, artistic, and intellectual achievements of a vital and vibrant region of the world and to elevate its foundational and irreplaceable heritage through a thoughtfully reconsidered presentation. The region’s cultures and narratives have traditionally been marginalized, even untold, in the canons of art history; it is time to re-center them within and beyond the ancient world. The hope and aim is to make the new space one in which all visitors can see themselves.
In essence, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a piece of urbanism. Much like other historic buildings, the museum can be navigated as virtual plazas, streets, courts, and back alleys, all attributes we commonly associate with cities. Visitors enter the Galleries for Ancient Near Eastern and Cypriot Art (ANEC) from all four corners, and this project sets out to create circulatory promenades that allow guests to travel both clockwise and counterclockwise through this donut-shaped gallery. It is important to note that the ANEC galleries are also a halo framing the vault of the Jaharis Gallery below, part of the Greek and Roman Art Galleries, and even while invisible to the eye today, the adjacency offers an important spatial connection when thought through cultural terms.
This project approaches sustainability from three directions. The first is in the reuse and preservation of an important cultural space within New York City. The project is reviving the galleries, repairing an aging roof, and in the process helping to preserve precious ancient artifacts. The second is in providing elevated occupant comfort. The latest technologies in air filtration, lighting, and safety and security systems are provided discretely in the slotted ceiling design. The third is in the use of natural durable materials and renewable resources.
The design of the Ancient Near East & Cypriot Wing has been an opportunity to challenge traditional relationships between ancient artifact curation and the architectural design of their galleries. The approach included:
- Overcoming the false opposition between the immersive and deferential gallery by acknowledging that all spaces serve as a potent mise-en-scène for their artifacts, using the oft-omitted categories of color and materiality to contextualize their social and cultural functions
- Examining the materiality of each artifact, the extraction of its resources, its transformation through labor, the invention of new tools its creation necessitated, and how new mediums were born
- Exposing the disciplines associated with materials, their means and methods of fabrication, associated technologies, and their impact on the built environment
- Creating thematic arenas that cut across categories of chronology and geography, allowing narratives to make cultural connections across time and place
- Presenting multiple points of view, ensuring that the methods of historical interpretation used are exposed in both their factual and creative basis
- Explaining the nuanced exchange between ancient cultures that escapes strict canonical interpretations, allowing debates and historically disputed narratives to be exposed
“This bold renovation will present new scholarship and reflect diverse narratives, re-centering regional cultures and perspectives.” -Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met “By expanding conversations to be more trans-cultural, and by engaging with heritage communities and diaspora groups, we will be able to highlight alternative narratives and contextualize ancient objects within contemporary discourse.” - Kim Benzel, Curator in Charge, Ancient Near Eastern Art
NADAAA is an architecture and urban design firm led by principal designer Nader Tehrani, winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letter’s 2020 Arnold W. Brunner Prize. Tehrani leads the studio with partner Arthur Chang, AIA who also leads the office’s fabrication workshop NADLAB. Based in Boston, NADAAA has evolved over three decades as a multi-disciplinary practice dedicated to bridging design disciplines; from landscape to urbanism, architecture to interiors, and industrial design to furniture. With an eye toward integrated thinking, we enter the discourse on technology, aesthetics, and building protocols as part of a holistic process. Rather than focus on typology, NADAAA’s portfolio is built on process, with examples of institutional, academic, housing, commercial, retail, and civic projects.