Bauhaus building re- purposed
“WHAT should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan .... It is easier to say first what it should not look like,” said architect Marcel Breuer in 1963. It is his name that graces the new location of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, set to open to the public on March 18. “It should not look like a business or office building, nor should it look like a place of light entertainment,” he went on in his speech back then. “Its form and its material should have identity and weight in the neighbourhood of 50- storey skyscrapers, of mile- long bridges, in the midst of the dynamic jungle of our colourful city. It should be an independent and self- relying unit, exposed to history, and at the same time it should transform the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art.”
That year, the Hungarian- born Bauhaus architect ( 1902- 1981) was commissioned to build a museum in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, at a time when monuments to consumerism, television and commerce constructed of glass and steel were springing up across the city. Acclaimed for his work with stone and concrete, he resisted the trends of the time and conceived the building as a solid, permanent sanctuary to house art.
With a granite facade and asymmetrical windows, the street level of the building, constructed between 1963 and 1966, was designed to be wide open as Breuer sought to bring visitors away from the hustle of the city and into an intimate engagement with art. His design included a sunken garden, and The Whitney Museum had also requested flexible exhibition spaces of large, open galleries with movable wall panels and flexible lighting that could be rearranged for each new exhibition.
Now the building is taking on a new life as the Met Breuer, a new location of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Located on Madison Avenue and 75th Street, the space will be re- dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
Renovated and restored for the Met Breuer with the architect’s original vision in mind, the work was executed under the guidance of Beyer Blinder Bell Architects and Planners LLC to maintain the unique character of the structure’s attributes, such as the concrete walls, stone floors and bronze fixtures.
Special consideration was given to preserving the aesthetic of weathered areas to respect the history of the iconic building while the infrastructure systems have been upgraded with The Whitney’s participation. In addition, the Met has commissioned landscape architect Gunther Vogt to activate the sunken garden with quaking aspen trees planted along the perimeter.
The restored structure opens on March 18 with the inaugural exhibition Unfinished Thoughts Left Visible, featuring over 190 art works from the Renaissance to the present. For more information on the new Met Breuer, go to metmuseum. org/ visit/ metbreuer.
The Met Breuer Museum is set to open on March 18 in this iconic Bauhaus new york building.