The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Frank Lloyd Wright


TheSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Frank Lloyd Wright

TheSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Frank Lloyd Wright

TheSolomon R. Guggenheim foundation started in 1939, with the Museumbeing designed in 1943 by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Museum was built in1959. There was a delay in building the Museum, which lasted forsixteen years, and this can be attributed to a number of factors. Thedelay resulted from the acquisition of property that needed to beadded for the completion of the design, as well as modifications thatwere being made to the design. Other factors contributing to thedelay included the rise in the cost of construction materials andSolomon’s death. Since he was the benefactor of the Museum,Guggenheim’s death adversely affected the progress of the Museum.The Museum could have been built before 1959, but due to his deaththe designers had to delay the project for some time.

Whenit opened on 21stof October 1959, the architectural design by Wright was regarded as alandmark in the history of the United States architecture. It becamethe most crucial building in his career with its unique appearanceand a spiral shape that has continued to astound visitors.1Basedon this building, it became possible for architects to designbuildings that expressed the social and cultural artefacts. It is thedesign of this museum that has shaped designs that have come later.The Museum is based in New York and the main objective of its designwas to showcase art, which could be regarded as non-objective. Themuseum consists of art collections that are somehow eccentric innature, and this has attracted many visitors who come to the museumwith the objective of viewing the artefacts contained therein. Thereare numerous paintings displayed in the Museum.

Whenhe first designed the building, the original plans of Wright intendedto have a tower of ten stories that would house storage, galleries,workroom, as well as offices. However, this was not achieved as aresult of the financial constraints encountered while the buildingwas being constructed. Over the years, Museum authorities in New Yorkhave strived to ensure that the building attracts the attention ofthe public. This explains why the building was closed in 1990 whenthe interior was being restored and there was massive expansion.Since this expansion, the building’s appearance was enhanced and itbecame more expansive, with some spaces that were previously used asoffices and stores being converted to galleries.

Fora long time, the design of this museum has been subjected to numerousdebates regarding whether or not the design is appropriate. Thismuseum contrasts the Manhattan city grid, with its curves becoming amajor attraction for visitors, lovers of art, as well as pedestrians.Although the museum has been associated with the appearance of otherart museums, its design does not warrant its classification as an artmuseum. This is because the architectural design of the museum hassome flaws, which does not qualify its appearance as a museum of art.The Museum exterior consists of reinforced concrete cylinder, whichis white in color and swirls facing the sky. The exterior curves hadan impact on the appearance of the interior.

Anotherflaw that can be seen from the design of the museum is the fact2that the building is continuous. The architectural design of thebuilding makes it appear as a single continuous floor. Although thisgives the people who visit the building to interact with one another,critics feel that the building ought not to be continuous. Withseveral floors in the building, it can be possible to have numerousartefacts housed in the museum. In addition, the continuousappearance of the building does not allow for proper classificationand categorization of the artifacts.3Many floors would ensure that each category of artefacts occupy aspecific place within the Museum and this would give visitors anopportunity to visit the section they want. In addition, it would bepossible for the visitors to learn about the artefacts one at a timerather than view all that is contained in the entire building at thesame time.

Anothercritique of the building is that the continuous floor appearance canconfuse the visitors who frequent the building. Visitors need to knowwhere they can exactly find the artefacts and paintings they want toview. Since the different visitors have varying goals while visitingthe museum, they need not view the artefacts together. The design ofthe rotunda by Wright also renders the building unacceptable as anarchitectural design. Initially, this area of the Museum was meant tobe an office. However, this part of the building has been convertedfrom administration offices to a gallery. This implies that Wrightdid not come up with a complete design of the building that wassupposed to incorporate the functions of each section within thebuilding. Another aspect that portrays the design as incomplete isthe fact that there were additions to the building. For example, theAnnex Building, which was opened later on, is an addition, to theoriginal design by Wright. Architects realized that the building didnot have sufficient buildings to cater for the purposes of exhibitionand office activities. As such, they made some modifications to theoriginal design and built additional rooms in the museum.

Failuresin the architectural design of Wright are also evident in theappearance of the building from the inside. The area inside thebuilding comprises of spaces that are low-ceilinged it draws theattention of the visitor to the skylight. Most of the artworks in thebuilding are hidden from the view of the visitors. This way, thevisitor has to experience the building first before accessing theworks in the building. This is a complete failure on the part of thedesigner because museums should enable the visitor to view thepaintings and other artefacts first at they enter the building.Wright seemed to have had a lot of interest in the appearance of themuseum rather than the display of what the museum would house. Whendesigning buildings that will act as museums, it is essential to takeinto consideration the artefacts that will be portrayed in thebuilding and give visitors a chance to have a glance at the artefactsimmediately they enter the building. There is no need to hide theartefacts as they are the center of attraction in a Museum.4Visitors are attracted by what is inside the building and not by theappearance of the building. Thus, the architectural design by Wrightfailed to emphasize on the main objectives of designing a museum.

Thedesign of the Museum as an open place that is airy at the same timerepresents a failure on the architectural design by Wright. Thedesign of a Museum should not appear as an open place visitorsshould not view artefacts that have been displayed while descendingfrom the top of the building. Rather, what is needed is a properarrangement of the artefacts based on their art form, which caneither be sculptures, drawing and paintings. When visitors view theartefacts on their down, there is a possibility that they will forgetthe exact locations of the artworks contained in the museum. Thisdesign indicates the building is all about space. Althougharchitectural designs should focus on space, it is not a primaryconsideration in the design of museums.

Despitethe fact that there are majestic spaces that portray the building asmonumental, it still does not function properly as intended. Theinterior comprised of curved walls, which aimed at ensuring that itwas possible to tilt back the paintings. However, the concaveappearance of the walls made it impossible to display the paintings.This resulted to numerous protests from artists who argued that theirworks were not properly displayed. The implication of this is thatworks of diverse artists are not properly displayed in the building,meaning that the artistic work displayed in the museum is somehowlimited. Wright could have avoided designing concave walls in orderto give every artist5a chance to have their works displayed properly. The other failure inthe architectural design of the museum emanates from the fact that itseems to be in competition with the work, which it should display.With a spectacular appearance, the design of the building surpassesthe displayed artworks.

Despitethe fact that the building has many failures in its architecturaldesign, it is arguably one of the best museum designs that hascontinued to attract the attention of artists. The unique style ofthe building represents modern architectural designs and is anindication of the developments that have taken place in the field ofarchitecture over the years. With many visitors frequenting thebuilding, it has become one of the most famous museums in the UnitedStates. The design of this museum has shaped the architectureemployed to build other museums that have come in later years.

Inconclusion, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank LloydWright, can be regarded as a unique architectural design of thetwentieth century. It took sixteen years since the design wasconceptualized to build the museum. Wright intended to have a designthat would portray space and enable visitors to view the artworksfrom single position. The spiral appearance gives visitors anopportunity to view the artefacts while descending from the top.Although the building represents complex architectural design, it hasreceived criticism based on its design. Critics argue that the designof the building does not function properly since it portrays morefeatures of the building and little aspects of the artworks.


Faires,Nancy. 2007. Thisis Not a Museum: The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.London: ProQuest. Hession,Jane King, and Debra Pickrel. 2007. FrankLloyd Wright in New York: the Plaza years, 1954-1959.Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publishers.

McCarter,Robert. 2006. FrankLloyd Wright.London: Reaktion Books.

SolomonR. Guggenheim Foundation, and Frank Lloyd Wright. 1975. TheSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright,architect.New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

1 McCarter, Robert. 2006. Frank Lloyd Wright. London: Reaktion Books.

2 McCarter, Robert. 2006. Frank Lloyd Wright. London: Reaktion Books.

3 Faires, Nancy. 2007. This is Not a Museum: The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. London: ProQuest.

4 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Frank Lloyd Wright. 1975. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

5 Hession, Jane King, and Debra Pickrel. 2007. Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: the Plaza years, 1954-1959. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publishers.