Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Essay
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In 1943, aging architect Frank Lloyd Wright was opposed to the choice of New York City as the site of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum because he felt that New York City was too congested and urban. However, the design concept which was chosen to house Guggenheim's four-year-old Museum of Non-Objective Painting, was finally completed in 1959 -- after the deaths of both Wright and Guggenheim. For 16 years, the controversial project created conflict between the architect, his clients, public opinion, the art world, and city officials (Drutt, 2015). Wright was already considered an innovative architect, and he had accumulated a portfolio of diverse projects. Much of his work emphasized defined space as opposed to enclosed space (greatbuildings.com, 2013). Much of his work -- both private and public buildings, as well as homes -- can also be found throughout the United States, especially in the Midwest.
The design concept of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City is based on organic plasticity (Drutt, 2015). He all but abandoned the traditional concept of a museum as a series of interconnected rooms that one enters and exits to visit exhibits. Instead, Wright used an inverted ziggurat design to define space. The inverted ziggurat also resembles a nautilus shell with a cavernous, spiraling, and continuous space. Wright's design concept allowed visitors to be taken to the top of the museum via elevator, and then allowed to walk downward the nautilus slope, visiting rooms as one would open up a citrus fruit. The design concept also included a rotunda which gave viewers the opportunity to see "different bays of work on different levels simultaneously (Drutt, 2015). In his concept, Wright relied heavily on geometric forms, especially the play of circularity and its seeming opening up, or expansion of, defined space.
Built in proximity to Central Park in New York City, the Guggenheim Museum is located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, between 88th and 89th Streets. Facing the Guggenheim, the visitor will see a "clean circular and horizontal design" (guggenheim.org, 2015). The circular (or spiral) rotunda is the most striking structure. Another circular rotunda, albeit smaller, is to the left of the central rotunda while there is also a rectangular building -- opened in 1992 -- that is called the Annex Building. It is a work of art unto itself, and resembles a clean post-modern sculptural piece situated in the bustle of Manhattan.
The Guggenheim's is made from three types of concrete, "all air-entrained and all made with a plasticizing admixture" (concreteconstruction.net, 1983). The ramp and floors were made from a very lightweight, expanded-shale concrete. A normal weight concrete was used in the bearing walls. This ensured a smooth finish. "Spiral exterior curtain walls which are supported on the outer edge of the spiral ramp were formed by shotcreting 5 inches of concrete from the inside of the building against carefully fabricated curved plywood forms. The inside surfaces of these walls were then furred, lathed and plastered, and the outside surfaces were smoothed and painted. All concrete was designed at 3500 psi; slump was kept at 3 to 4 inches" (concreteconstruction.net, 1983). There are no expansion joints in the Guggenheim Museum, and there are no connections between the floors, except where the columns meet the floors where there are inflexible connections. On a hot summer day, the building can expand laterally by as much as 3/4 of an inch (concreteconstruction.net, 1983).
Concreteconstruction.net (1983). (n.p.). Retrieved on 07 Feb 2015 from http://www.concreteconstruction.net/concrete-articles/the-guggenheim-a-concrete-work- of-art.aspx
Drutt, Matthew. (2015). Retrieved on 07 Feb 2015 from http://www.guggenheim.org/new- york/about/frank-lloyd-wright-building
Greatbuildings.com (2013). (n.p.) Retrieved on 07 Feb 2015 from http://www.greatbuildings.com/architects/Frank_Lloyd_Wright.html
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