The Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright

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A museum of ancient, modern, and contemporary art, The Guggenheim is situated in Manhattan, New York. In 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright had a grand vision for a structure that would honor the famous philanthropist Solomon R. Guggenheim by bearing his name. Even though The Guggenheim Museum was founded by Solomon's foundation and opened in 1959, nearly 50 years ago, it is still a striking piece of construction. Wright's daring aesthetic made it socially acceptable to create pricey, highly individualized museums. The museum shares its sizable private collection with other museums (Paine 429). This paper will give a formal analysis of the Guggenheim museum in the context of architecture, as well as the qualities, art history, design, representations and comparison with other architectural works of Frank Wright.

Formal qualities of the building

The Guggenheim Museum has a unique interior space a modern day presentation of contemporary art. The view continues to thrill visitors due to the doomed skylight outlook arising from its spiral ramp. According to Paine (432), the rotunda itself echoes ancient architecture as Wright imagined it to be an inverted ziggurat and an elliptical shape bearing similarities to the roden crater. The bearing of the building is based around a series of rooms that are interconnected, deviating from the conventional museum designs. Instead of using a staircase, visitors move up through a gently sloping continuous ramp. Due to the amazing open designs tourists are able to view the exhibitions presented at a multiple levels perspective at the same time. Guggenheim building was stimulated by Wright’s affection for automobiles – planetarium- planned for guests to move up the ziggurat-like slopes. From outwards the construction looks like a silvery ribbon trolled into a cylinder-shaped form, which is faintly broad at the top as compared to the lowermost.

Art history

The Guggenheim museum was initiated in 1937 as a museum of non-objective portrait with Frank Lloyd as the selected architect. The architecture was a dedication to the present art. The plan and building of the museum took 16 years; it was started in 1943 and ended in 1959 as a result of design changes and costs (Franklin 82). Additionally, other constraints that made the museum to take all this time was due to the argument between the architect, public opinion, and the art world because of the dissimilarity of the museum’s shape surrounded by the New York City grid. Consequently, the building of the museum faced a lot of protests from artists on claims that the building’s slanting walls and incline was not appropriate for a painting show. On the other hand in the Guggenheim, Wrights intentions was to let guests experience an assortment of portraits by taking an grain elevator to the highest level and then have a look at the artworks by moving downwards to the central spiral ramp.

Architectural design

Building layout: the building comprises of a bridge that links the display and rotunda that is used to monitor porte-cochere through where automobile drove in the channel to transport tourists and offered a drive entree under the building. Nevertheless, it was shut down in 1975 and is currently used as a bookstore. A steel frame can be seen lurking behind the outer skin of the sculpture with a linear lattice structure that is translated from its dynamic form (Deplazes 118).

Annex: currently the building consists of ten limestone clad. Previously the building comprised four-story annex. Currently, the structure occupies a similar footprint and has involved the brass tacks as well as framings of its precursor (Ritvala et al., 152). The building consists of four floors used for exhibition space, and among them, three floors are of double heights and have an office and storing space for power-driven systems.

Rotunda: the building comprises of radial web ramparts that split the portico into inlets for exhibition sculpture. The building has a huge tumbler roof that covers the whole building, which offers normal light inside the portico. The rotunda was planned to hold portraits and the slope of the arcade ramparts were anticipated to duplicate the slant of an easel. The skylights were initially projected to light up the images using ordinary light; however, it was improved to artificial to have a regulated illumination. Similarly, the monitor was initially used to check work space, apartments, offices and the library (Ritvala et al., 145)

Materials: the Guggenheim is mainly composed of reinforced concrete. At lower levels, a normal weight cast is used in place of concrete. The materials used on the interior walls and ramps consist of light weight concrete. The material used for the spiral and exterior walls is shortcrete. The reinforcement to the shotcrete comprised of perpendicular and level steel bars squeeze in between two coatings of fused mesh wire. Wright used gunite to attain the seamless monolithic façade. Gunite which is a blend of sand and concrete was scattered through a metal mesh with wooden structure (Deplazes 122).

Foundation: The building has a deep foundation which encloses the basement space reserved by a top base lump of strengthen concrete.

The museum as a representative of a certain period or style

Guggenheim Museum is a revolutionary exhibition space. Wright wanted to make a change in art design. Guggenheim building is unique since visitors are first moved up topmost level using an elevator and then slowly move downwards; this enables one to know exactly where they are moving to. The building has a unified space with no traditional exhibition halls, all parts of the museum can be perceived from each point while inside (Paine 431). Also, visitors are always aware of where they are, as well as where they are heading.

Comparison of the building with architectural works of Frank Lloyd Wright

Most of the American structures designed by frank wright are considered world heritage sites under UNESCO. Frank believes in harmonizing the building with humanity and the environment a philosophy known as organic architecture. His designs were mostly for small houses that were richly textured and handmade his skyscraper designs often had a central core like the branches of a tree (Deplazes 184).The major difference between Wright’s Guggenheim architecture and is earlier works is the building’s broad top and narrow bottom. Additionally, his earlier works individuals moved from down upwards unlike in Guggenheim where visitors had to move to the top level and then gently descent downwards.


Despite the many challenges that Wright faced when he came up with Guggenheim art design, his designs has become a reference model and various modern museums have emulated Wright’s design of a ramped exhibition space like the Mercedes-Benz museums in Germany. Accordingly, Wright’s building has become socially and culturally accepted as an architect design that is used to design extremely expressive and intensively personal museums. Almost all structures of the modern time borrow their architecture from Wright’s Guggenheim Museum.

Works Cited

Deplazes, Andrea. Constructing Architecture: Materials, Processes, Structures : a Handbook. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2013. Print

Franklin, Adrian. "Journeys to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: Towards a revised Bilbao Effect." Annals of Tourism Research 59 (2016): 79-92.

Plaza, Beatriz, and Silke N. Haarich. "The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: Between regional

embeddedness and global networking." European Planning Studies 23.8 (2015): 1456-1475.

Paine, Ashley. "“Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive”, 12 June–1 October, 2017 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York." Fabrications 27.3 (2017): 429-432.

Ritvala, Tiina, et al. "The International Expansion of an Art Museum: Guggenheim’s Global–

Local Contexts." Growth Frontiers in International Business. Springer International Publishing, 2017. 145-166.

March 17, 2023

Culture Art World

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