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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A NYC landmark building: The Story Behind The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


 
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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Photo by Sophie Louisnard from Pexels

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an art museum located on the most expensive New Yorkian street, 1070 Fifth Avenue, in the Manhattan District (See situation map below). It is today considered one of NYC's landmark buildings, and worthily.

It is the continual home of an increasing collection of Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, early Moderns, and contemporary arts in general, and also features special exhibitions throughout the year.
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The museum often referred to as The Guggenheim was established and founded by Solomon R. Guggenheim in 1939 as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, with the direct influence and under the guidance of its first manager, Hilla von Rebay. It was firstly inaugurated on a rented lot and adopted its current name in 1952 after three years of its founder's death.

Back in June 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright, the very famous American Architect of all time, received a letter from Hilla von Rebay, mentioned above, asking him to design a new building to house The Guggenheim's four-year-old-so-far Museum.

The project turned into a complicated struggle between the architect on one hand and his clients, city officials, the art world, and public opinion on the other hand. Unfortunately, in 1959 both Guggenheim and Wright died before the completion of the building; The brilliant result, i.e. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, witnessed both Wright's architectural professionalism and the courageous attitude that was characterized by its founders towards the opposition of their project.

The site selection

Meanwhile, Wright didn’t hide his disagreement with the Guggenheim's choice of New York City for his future museum to be: "I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum," Wright wrote in 1949 to Arthur Holden, a Canadian writer, "but we will have to try New York." he added.


For Wright, the city was already overbuilt, overpopulated, and in need of an architectural identity.

Despite his preference for another site, he proceeded with his client's wish, and consider locations on 36th Street, 54th Street, and Park Avenue (all in Manhattan), as well as in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, before settling down on the actual lot on the Fifth Avenue, between 88th and 89th Streets, as mentioned above.

Its closeness to Central Park makes it the only way to be near to Nature;  once we get to New York, the park ensures lesser noise from the crowded city.

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The Architect picked a site next to Central Park, connecting the museum with Nature, Photo: www.architecturaldigest.com

The park's greenery and fresh environment with the existence of water inside, assure freedom to the museum from New York's distraction and pollution.

 

The Story Behind The Guggenheim's Museum Concept

Anyway, we can say that The Guggenheim Museum conception is a primary Wright’s attempt to introduce organic forms in architecture; He was the father of Organic Architecture and the first to deal with this still-new philosophy concerning architecture in general.

  • Later came the Iraqi Architect, Zaha Hadid (1950 – 2016) which was surnamed by the “Queen of Curves” after her triumphal experiences caught along with her various projects using curves — or better to say organics — as being the essential architectural elements in her concepts.

His inverted ziggurat, which is a twisting pyramidal temple of a Babylonian origin, dispensed the traditional approach to museums’ design. Despite its faults, the Guggenheim is nonetheless a superb building, a little crazy, which pushes the limits of the concrete technology.


Concretely, it is a circular ramp that winds around a concrete pit, topped with a glass dome with flat ribs. (See figure below)

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Inside view of the rotunda, topped with a glass dome, Photo: www.architecturaldigest.com

Wright, who worked on his plans for 16 years, imagined that visitors would take the elevator to the top and descend the ramp. However, the museum exhibit begins on the ground floor and visitors should use the ramp on their way up.
The galleries were divided the same as the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet dependent sections. (See Tweet below)

 


The unique open rotunda allows viewers the exclusive possibility of catching several inlets of work on different levels at once. The spiral design reminds us of a snail conch shell, with continuous spaces curving getting freely one into another.

Even though it involved nature, also contrary to the rigid geometry of modern architecture, the building was a composition of circles, triangles, ovals, arcs, and squares based on proportions.
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The geometric forms came into action within the different floor levels of the museum, Photo:www.semanticscholar.org

The particular conception took decades to be entirely assimilated. Originally, the large rotunda was to be accompanied by a small rotunda and a tower. The small rotunda (or monitor building, as Wright calls it) was intended to house apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim, but instead became offices and miscellaneous storage space.

However, Wright's original plan for the tower—artists' studios and apartments—went unrealized, mainly for financial restrictions. In 1992, as part of the restoration and enlargement of the museum, a tower of 10 stories was added to the original construction and designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, LLC.

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The new extension provides four additional exhibition galleries and after thirty-five years, completed Wright's concept for the museum. In 2001, the Sackler Center for Arts Education opened to the public. Located just below the circular void space, this 8,200 sqft education facility includes the Peter B. Lewis Theater, part of Frank Lloyd Wright's original architectural design for the building.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is possibly Wright's most expressive presentation, but it is certainly the most important building of his late career. Over time, it is one of the best NYC landmark buildings that rank and adhere to their position, worthily.

References in this post:

- www.eng.wikipedia.org, The online encyclopedia.
- https://www.admiddleeast.com, Architectural Digest | News & Ideas for Architectural Designs, Interior & Home Décor.


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