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OMA’s Shohei Shigematsu Crafts an Ethereal Set for the Met’s “Manus x Machina” Exhibit

Photograph by Naho Kubato courtesy of OMA

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” on view in New York now through August 14, is a sublime display designed by architect Shohei Shigematsu. A partner in Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA and director of the New York office, Shigematsu transformed the museum’s tucked-away Robert Lehman Wing into a shimmering, luminous set with a sinuous structure, cohesively showcasing more than 170 garments from the early 20th century to the present.

Employing narrow, concrete-and-brick corridors and a double-height skylit atrium, Shigematsu designed a temporary infrastructure of scaffolding that streamlines the space. He introduced classical arches and a dome into the atrium in an rrangement that evokes the qualities of a cathedral. Swathed in a semitransparent silvery scrim, Shigematsu’s design provides a muted, milky-white milieu that encourages an intimate exchange with the fashions on display.

“It’s like a temple for fashion,” Shigematsu says. “Within the classical church structure, mannequins start to look like the other pieces of art in the Met— it elevates fashion to art.”

The collection represents a spectrum of both handmade and high-tech dressmaking techniques, probing the dialectical relationship between the two in the creation of haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs. Distinguished by a 20-foot-long train that is blanketed with rhinestones, pearls, and gems, Karl Lagerfield’s 2014 couture wedding ensemble, installed in the atrium, serves as the centerpiece of the exhibition. The intricacies of the dual machine-and-handmade showstopper are projected onto the domed ceiling above.