Humorously enough, when famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright was asked to design the Guggenheim Museum in New York City (one of five such museums standing today; the others are in Venice, Bilbao, Berlin and Abu Dhabi), he turned his nose up at the locale, citing his distaste for the city he thought “was overbuilt, overpopulated and lacked architectural merit.”
Never a shrinking violet nor a particularly humble man, Wright was vocal about his protestations but accepted the project nonetheless. Today, after being completed in 1959 and having undergone renovations in the decades since, the structure is one of the most instantly recognized architectural icons in the world.
Per the museum’s official historical retrospective written by Matthew Drutt:
Nature not only provided the museum with a respite from New York’s distractions but also leant it inspiration. The Guggenheim Museum is an embodiment of Wright’s attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture. His inverted ziggurat (a stepped or winding pyramidal temple of Babylonian origin) dispensed with the conventional approach to museum design, which led visitors through a series of interconnected rooms and forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright whisked people to the top of the building via elevator, and led them downward at a leisurely pace on the gentle slope of a continuous ramp. The galleries were divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of seeing several bays of work on different levels simultaneously. The spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.
Although Wright’s original plan to include artists’ homes and studios within the structure never came to fruition, the Sackler Center for Arts Education opened in 2001, offering creative resources to the artistic community as Wright’s project originally intended.
The urban oasis has since hosted a plethora of events to foster the art world and make it accessible to budding masterminds; in particular, it recently sponsored a special multimedia event using its exterior as a projection screen for videos shot, edited and submitted by the public — although the structure itself is enough of a work of art on its own to provide hours of study and reflection.
Photos: Guggenheim website