On a normal day, when a visitor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art enters the Great Hall from Fifth Avenue, the first thing they see is the information desk: an octagonal marble structure smack dab in the middle of the room manned by helpful employees.
Yet on the first Monday in May—the annual date of the Met Gala—Vogue and event planner Raul Àvila like to make sure attendees are greeted by something a little different. Last year, for example, Àvila transformed it into (along with Shane Valentino) a structure resembling the Statue of Liberty’s iconic torch. In 2019, to celebrate the theme of camp, he created a 25-foot tall, flamboyant flamingo centerpiece comprised of 30,000 flowers. And this year, for the 2023 Met Gala honoring Karl Lagerfeld, he crafted a modern installation made of florals and thousands of recycled water bottles.
The concept originated from Tadao Ando, who also designed the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibit for the museum. Lagerfeld and the Pritzker Prize-winning architect enjoyed a working relationship as well as a friendship: in 1998, for example, Lagerfeld photographed Ando’s famous Vitra House. Knowing that the Chanel creative director was always looking ahead, Ando developed a futuristic design. “It’s a nod to Karl’s love of everything cutting edge,” Vogue’s contributing editor Eaddy Kiernan, one of the great planning minds behind the event, says.