Morrison Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, presents the history of the building, including interviews with Kevin Roche of Roche Dinkeloo & Associates, and Peter White, grandson of architect Stanford White. Available in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese.
Listen to a sample of the Architecture of the Met program.
Welcome to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to its Great Hall, one of the most magnificent interior public spaces in New York City. I'm Morrison Heckscher, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, and I'll be your guide for the special audio tour we've created about the Museum's architecture. Find a comfortable place to stand while I tell you a bit about the history of this remarkable building.
The Metropolitan Museum is itself a work of art. But it's a work of art that has been in more or less constant evolution since its doors first opened in 1880. Fortunately, the Museum has preserved its past and kept vestiges of its many iterations. Taken together, these elements illustrate the history of America's most important nineteenth- and twentieth-century architectural styles.
Of the many architects who have worked on this building, Richard Morris Hunt was among the most prominent. Hunt was the first American architect to study at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His legacy at the Metropolitan can be seen in the Museum's stately façade, the Grand Staircase leading up to the second floor, and the vast, ceremonial space of the Great Hall, in which you are now standing. The Metropolitan demonstrates Hunt's mastery of the Beaux-Arts style, an architecture particularly suited to civic buildings at the end of the nineteenth century. Named after the school in Paris, the style is distinguished by its unified treatment of interior and exterior spaces and by its references to traditional, classical forms. In the Great Hall, many details are classically inspired. For example, the four pedimented niches overflowing with flowers—which originally were intended to display classical sculpture; the elegant colonnades, or rows of columns, which lead to the Museum's galleries; and the domes, which correspond to the three massive arched windows that define the Museum's façade. If you'd like to hear more about Richard Morris Hunt—one of America's first internationally renowned architects—press the green play button now.