The Guggenheim Museum in New York is the first museum established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, dedicated to modern art. Founded in 1937 in Upper East Side, NY, it is the best known of all the museums of the foundation, and is often called simply “The Guggenheim”.
At the beginning it was called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, and was founded to showcase avant-garde art of early modern artists such as Kandinsky and Mondrian.
In 1959 it moved to the place where it is now (the corner of 89th STreet and 5th Avenue, opposite Central Park), and built the building designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Solomon did not know whom to choose as an architect for the museum, so they asked the Baroness Hilla von Rebay to choose someone. Wright was chosen because he was the most famous architect of the moment.
The project was involved in complex discussions between the architect and the client in the city, the art world and public opinion, because of the contrast of its forms within the grid of the city of New York. During the construction work, a letter signed by a long list of artists came to the director and managers of the museum, which outlined that the sloping walls and the ramp were not suitable for a painting exhibition. Despite strong criticism, Guggenheim was enthusiastic about the idea of the upward spiral and supported the project until his death in 1949.
Between 1943 and 1956, the start of construction suffered numerous delays due to changes in the conditions of the site, regulations related to construction, changes in the agenda of the museum and the increased costs of construction materials, but finally, on August 16, 1956 the work of earthmoving could begin.
Guggenheim died before construction was completed in 1959, but when Wright died in April 1959, construction was finished, leaving only some final details. Six months later, on October 21, the museum opened its doors to the public. The achievement not only testified to Wright’s architectural genius, but to the adventurous spirit that characterized its founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim.
In 1992 the building was complimented with a rectangular tower, higher than the original spiral. This modification to Wright’s original design created a strong controversy.
The Wright building has proved unpopular in some criticisms made by artists who feel that the building overshadows the works exhibited there and that it is difficult to properly hang the paintings.
In 2006, visitors to the Museum Solomon R. Guggenheim had to pass under the scaffolding that was needed to restore the famous building’s exterior. Although much admired, the famous concrete structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright has been plagued by surface cracks almost since it opened in l959.
During 2005 12 layers of paint applied over the past 46 years were removed and the surface of the concrete building was revealed, which allowed a detailed analysis of its state. The monitoring of certain cracks took more than a year and experts sought an appropriate methodology for repairs to ensure the health of the building for the long term. Its restoration was completed in the summer of 2008.
A group of specialists – engineers, architects and curators – have been making concrete samples and taking measurements of the expansion of the building between temperatures in winter and summer seasons in this city, which range from -15ºC and 35ºC respectively. Because of this phenomenon of normal expansion and contraction of the concrete structures, the concrete outer skin of the building has begun to shred, crack and swell on a cumulative basis since its inauguration in 1959.
The team first studied the concrete to determine the building conditions and determine the best strategy for restoration. They have used non-destructive methods of restoration, such as monitors, scanners and laser radar. The side that faces Central Park is one of the most eroded and first to be restored.
The exhibition, open to the public visiting the museum, also displays the technology and technical instruments used and for measuring vibration, corrosion and expansion of concrete structures, as well as the method used by specialists to conduct the pre-reconstruction audit and repair the damage.
The Guggenheim is situated with a view of the famous Central Park, offering a great combination of views to walkers in the city.
Address: 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street) New York, NY 10128-0173, USA
Accessibility: Stopping the 86th Street subway (lines 4, 5 and 6) or bus lines M1, M2, M3 and M4.
The building itself became a work of art. From the street, the building looks like a white ribbon rolled into a cylindrical shape, slightly wider at the top than at the bottom. Internally, the galleries form a spiral. Thus, the visitor sees the work as you walk up the illuminated spiral ramp.
Its design was inspired by a “Ziggurat” Babylonian temple pyramid, inverted.
Frank L.Wright Opinion
When asked why he chose a ramp rather than conventional floors, Wright replied that the ramp was more welcoming to visitors, it was better to rise to the upper levels and to descend slowly around an open patio, always having the option to go up or down from all levels of the ramp, and finally, arriving at the exit at the lowest level. Wright added that in most conventional museums, the public had to go through lengthy galleries when ending their visit, with the sole aim of leaving.
Why do you think that the walls of the Solomon R. Guggenheim are slightly tilted to the outside?
Because its founder and architect thought that the paintings in a gently sloping wall can be seen with a better light and better than if they were hung in an absolute vertical position. This is the main feature of our building, the assumptions on which the project was conceived. It is a new idea, but it can serve as a precedent of great importance for the future.
The Museum Guggenhein exhibits a great difference to the buildings in the vicinity because of its spiral shape, marked by the mergeing of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles and squares, which correspond to the concept of organic architecture used by Frank Lloyd Wright in his designs.
The tour begins at the entrance and slowly leads visitors to a path where the artworks are exposed along a spiral ramp lit by a large skylight at its zenith divided in the shape of a citrus fruit.
Wright directs visitors via a ramp to the top of the building, and down a gentle helicoidal ramp so that almost without realizing it, the work set out at different levels is interconnected, yet distinct from one another by a small transitional space that is almost imperceptible.
If we stop for a moment and look toward the center of the spiral we realize how impressive this building is, reminiscent of a snail, which allows us to see the center of the rotunda and various levels of exposure of the spiral ramp downward. A more detailed observation shows the interaction of geometric shapes subtly positioned, dominated by triangles, ovals (including the columns), arcs, circles and squares.
The paths around the great central emptiness promote the reflection upon and the enjoyment of the art. The meaning of the art is communicated via the trip through this New York Museum.
The provision of semi-open exhibition halls gives visitors an overview of the entire building from any point up the central aisle. Also, it calls attention to the mosaic on the ground floor.
In the conquest of the static regularity of geometric design and combined with the plasticity of nature, Wright produced a vibrant building whose architecture is as refreshing now as it was 40 years ago. The Guggenheim of Wright is probably the most eloquent presentation and certainly the most important building of his late career.
This building has a spiral structure featuring a large exhibition hall lit by a skylight.
The materials used in its construction were basically precast concrete blocks.
The white paint used on the internal walls makes the works of art stand out.
The skylight is supported by steel joints.