Landscape architecture and urban design firm OLIN Studio prides itself on creating “timeless spaces that promote social interaction and enhance life.” And that’s just what the Metropolitan Museum of Art is aiming for as it embarks upon a multi-year effort to redesign and rebuild the four-block-long outdoor plaza that fronts its landmark Fifth Avenue façade. A search committee of museum trustees and leadership selected OLIN from a field of more than 30 leading landscape and building architects from around the world. While based in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the firm has completed a long list of projects in New York, including the redesign of Bryant Park and the development of Battery Park City, as well as work for the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. OLIN has spent much of 2010 collecting awards for its work on Kroon Hall, the new energy-efficient home of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
“Monumental” is how Metropolitan Museum director Thomas P. Campbell describes the renovation project, which was formally approved by the museum’s board of trustees last week. The initial phase of design work has been funded by a grant from David Koch. OLIN will lead the effort to reconceive the entire plaza space, including its fountains and accompanying plantings, all of which were installed in 1970. The uses of the plaza have changed over the years—vehicles, for example, are no longer allowed to drive around the fountains—suggesting the need for a new design program, according to a statement by the museum. The new project also calls for improving access to the Museum’s two subsidiary, street-level public entrances, but not to worry, Gossip Girl fans: the redesign will not affect the Museum’s beloved front steps. “The Met’s Beaux-Arts façade is one of the great architectural treasures in America, and this initiative represents an important opportunity to create a truly dynamic space around this remarkable building,” noted Campbell. “The steps of the Met have long been a beloved part of our visitors’ experience here, and we look forward extending the vitality of that iconic area to the surrounding plaza.”