New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is to undertake a renovation of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Galleries (AAOA), overseen by Los Angeles architecture firm Why.

The three regional collections, which were founded almost 50 years ago, are hosted within the museum’s Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, which is to be completely reimagined. The overarching aim of the redesign is to reintroduce the collections with a refreshed voice, engaging them in a new dialogue with the rest of the museum’s offerings, which stretch back over 5,000 years.

The Met AAOA renovation render

The renovation of the Michael C. Rockefeler Wing comes nearly 50 years since its regional collections were first founded. Render: courtesy of Why

LA practice Why is no stranger to rethinking museum spaces. The firm, led by creative director Kulapat Yantrasast (who walked us through how he uses Apple’s iPad Pro), has completed projects for the Harvard Art Museums, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Samurai, to name a few.

‘The team at the Met visited our previous works at the Harvard Art Museums and at the Art Institute of Chicago,’ states Yantrasast. ‘I believe something must have spoken to them about the clean-line aesthetic, focus on the collection, and its installation.’

The concept for the $70 million project is to divide the 40,000 sq ft wing into three individual spaces, transporting visitors across the respective regions’ histories through art. ‘These areas cover more than three quarters of the world, yet there is not sufficient distinction given to them in most museum presentations,’ says Yantrasast. ‘In the new design, each region is given its own access portal and sense of place – inspired by an architectural impression of the region, as well as strong visual connection to other regions and other collections at The Met.’

The Met AAOA renovation render

The 40,000 square foot space will be split into three individual spaces, each inspired by its respective architectural lexicon. Render: courtesy of Why

Commencing in 2020 and slated for completion in 2023, AAOA’s curatorial team sees the architectural refit as a driving force for its research department. ‘AAOA’s curatorial team has been presenting groundbreaking exhibitions of non-Western art that reflect new research, and this direction needs to be reflected in our current installation,’ states Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator who heads the department. ‘Our thinking for the new galleries centres on the importance of reframing each of the specific regions of the world represented.’

‘We will be seeking to illuminate their artistic brilliance by invoking a sense of place through referencing architectural vernaculars relevant to each segment while also tethering these aspects to historical movements.’ §