Guggenheim – Valerien Yepes

Final Project – ENG 1101

Valerien Yepes

Professor Gold

ENG 1101




The Guggenheim Museum


            The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a well-known non-objective (abstract) art museum located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. It is also referred to as “The Guggenheim”. The Guggenheim Museum was established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He designed it so it’s cylindrical, wider at the top than at the bottom. The Guggenheim opened and was instantly identified by the public as an architectural landmark but what lies deeper through this magnificent museum?

             The Guggenheim has an enormous amount of history behind it. It adopted its name after its founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim who passed away on November 3, 1949. In 1943, Frank Lloyd Wright’s duty was to design a building which would be called the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. It was established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1939 but later on it was renamed because of the death of Guggenheim. The museum went through many modifications which had caused the project to be delayed from appearing to the public.

            Frank Lloyd Wright made six separate sets of plans and 749 different drawings to design this museum. The costs of building materials had begun to rise due to World War II which did not help create this museum sooner. Those were not only some issues that were causing the interruption of finishing the museum but the death of Guggenheim slowed it even more. Frank Lloyd Wright had different ideas for this museum and the cylindrical design was not a plan he thought of when he was making his drawings. He wanted a ten story tower. Which in his idea he was able to make work rooms, storages and even apartments. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s curator Hilla Rebay later on told Wright “I want a temple of spirit, a monument!” Wright’s design wasn’t planned on making The Guggenheim a temple and spiritually made, but he was told to. Wright’s focus was to determine to not waste so much space instead of closing in. Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece finally opened to the public on October 21, 1959 and was immediately recognized as an architectural landmark. Wright was unable to be there when his masterpiece opened since he passed away six months before on April 9th, 1959.

            In 1968, Wright’s son-in-law William Wesley Peters, designed a smaller framing of the building by making it eight-stories. The building was then closed in 1990 for a major interior construction and restoration. Two years later The Guggenheim re-opened and was said to be one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed works. They were able to add more space that included offices and a restaurant. This caused the museum to become a huge hit. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates greatly improved the museum but did not change so much of what Wright had done to it. Since it was one of Wright’s most important building, they were capable of not taking away his original design.

            This museum would have not existed if it wasn’t for Solomon R. Guggenheim and Baroness Hilla Rebay. Guggenheim at first collected Old Masters, but when he met Rebay she had converted him to modern art. She was dedicated to art and was only devoted to non-objective paintings. Non object paintings appeared to be painting that was unrecognizable symbols or objects. The artwork she did was also recognized as Non-objective art. She recommended to Guggenheim to begin a museum full of non-objective art. With Rebay’s helped they began to bring in artworks by Kandinsky, Gris, Léger, Moholy-Nagy and others. Without them realizing that this museum would one day become part of Guggenheim’s famous collection. These paintings are now located in Frank Lloyd Wright landmark building the Guggenheim Museum.

The museum was featured in The New York Times when it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009. The museum exhibited some of Wright’s drawings and his original model of the museum. That exhibition drew about 372,000 visitors for the 87 days the show was being opened. “Museum surveys show that for the 900,000 to 1,000,000 people who visit every year, the building consistently ranked over the art as the reason for visiting. Architecture buffs say the Guggenheim is Wright’s most visited building and his only major commission in New York City.” For the New York Times to write about the museum in such a way is a big deal. It attracts more visitors and tells the person that the museum is more than just a building with art inside its doors.

The way Wright designed this building was spectacular to anyone who has seen it. The view from outside is so different having a swirling design. Not only has it expanded throughout the years but it got more popular after adding a restaurant and offices to it. The way the building looks from outside it catches your eye instantly. This beautiful building is considered to be a piece of art and architecturally alluring. This architectural art stands out not only from the outside but as you enter the building you are able to see a winding staircase where it can take you to the exhibit.  Walking into the sky-light room with art spiraling around the outer edges from top to bottom of the room is nothing you’ve ever seen before. Going to each floor, looking the same from the outside and ground level isn’t what it seems. Each level has its own kind of art from back in the 1940’s to present day.

            The museum continues to thrill visitors and provide a unique forum for the presentation of contemporary art. In the words of Paul Goldberger, “Wright’s building made it socially and culturally acceptable for an architect to design a highly expressive, intensely personal museum. In this sense almost every museum of our time is a child of the Guggenheim.” The 96 feet building being spiral causes it to be very famous and it draws crowds to the Guggenheim. The tower’s simple facade and grid pattern highlight Wright’s unique spiral design and serves as scenery to the rising urban landscape behind the museum.

                        Wright had designed many buildings and had a lot of experience. He had created 1,141 designs, of which 532 were completed before his death. Making The Guggenheim his last design, which in my opinion is an honor to have such a magnificent structure.  The original Guggenheim is built in New York but has been copied in other areas of the world such as Venice, Berlin, Las Vegas, Spain and many more. This building became well known for the art it carries and the architectural building design.

            It has become an international museum that many countries or states have but New York has the original museum Wright made. Many things lie in this museum the history that went behind it with a tycoon establishing this museum of non-objective paintings.  The famous Solomon R. Guggenheim and his partner Baroness Hilla Rebay made what is now today one of the most famous museums known. The Guggenheim Museum since the beginning has been known for its architectural work and the art inside it.  This unique design wasn’t built until after Guggenheim passed away but Wright worked on it and made a sensational job.


Muriel Emmanuel. Contemporary Architects. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. ISBN 0-312-16635-4. NA680.C625.

The Textile Block Houses“, by Tim Street-Porter, ArchitectureWeek No. 420, 2009.0318. pC1.1.

Website © 2012 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (SRGF)

Winter, Damon. “Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.” (2009): n. page. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

Randall J. Van Vynckt. International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture: Volume 1- Architects. London: St. James Press, 1993. ISBN 1-55862-087-7. NA40.I48 1993. p997-1003.

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