It seems fitting that since the Guggenheim is currently featuring the works of its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright, we should feature some of the process work of the iconic museum. Well known for its white curving form, it is important to note that the current rendition of the museum is vastly different from Wright’s original ideas. The struggle between the architect and the client (in this case Solomon R. Guggenheim, a wealthy mining entrepreneur) to see eye-to-eye is not something new, however it is interesting to consider whether the renowned museum would still have its status if it were as Wright had originally envisioned: a polygonal structure, partly in blue or perhaps a red-marble structure with long-slim pottery red bricks.
More about the Guggenheim after the break.
During the design process, Wright experimented with the placement of the spiral form as well as the general geometry of the main area. While it was difficult enough trying to create the form and the actual curating space, arguably the hardest decision dealt with paint color. Wright explored designs in red, pink, peach, and black marble, however, he never pictured the Guggenheim colored white. After a long decision process, a final color was chosen to clad the form; Wright finally specified the color ”PV020 Buff” to clad the outside. By the time of the opening in October 1959, Wright had been dead for six months and the color had changed on the job from the specified color to a blend of cream and very soft yellow. Over the years, as the Guggenheim has been repainted, the colors have varied slightly from indeterminate beige to the more recent light gray.
The museum is a masterpiece of architecture that achieved its status the way any major building does: through teamwork and compromise between client and architect, and countless revisions. Working through finding a form, and then the struggle for a color to create its identity, the amount of thought and time that went into the smallest details were quite remarkable. Wright and Solomon turned into a great team to produce an even greater structure, one that was better than what either had originally been considering.
Several of these early proposals are in the Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward display organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The exhibit is on view through August 23. More images can be seen at the New York Times.