Text by Patrizia Mello, photos by Bruno Balestrini

The Solomon R. Guggenheim, planned by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), broke away from the dictates of the trends of modern architectural movements and represented the most poetically linked of all his works. "here is the ideal i propose for the architecture of the machine age", wrote Wright, "for how an ideal american architecture should develop in the image of trees". In this way, entrusting it to an organic image of construction, Wright intended including the same function of the building as that in the world of nature, establishing a dialectic rapport between form and function and not of a casual type as that intended by the main exposers of the Modern Movement. "it is important to note," the historian Bruno Zevi relates, "how Wright's space reduces the generatrix, placing itself, not in geometrical terms, but in those immediately plastic."


"thinking of form as something which grows and, as it does, space becomes its life giving force, its construction in a dimension". It is truly this life giving force which reassesses the rapport with man, entrusting it to an emotional and aesthetic impact. The Guggenheim Museaum of painting and modern sculpture in New York, completed in 1959, can be found at number 1071 Fifth Avenue. From an urbanistic point of view it contradicts the usual chess board type of building, typical of New York, the outside of which presents strong links to the past with flower boxes at street level and the possibility of seating, the large curved overhang of the first floor underlining an invitation to the loggia underneath, the bridge being a link between the two bodies of the Museum acting as a kind of middle road between the outside and the inside. The inside space is a continual upwards movement using a six-floor spiral with galleries which spread out from the first ramp indicated by a large water fountain in the central room on the ground floor.

The diameter of the spiral as it curves upwards allows for the entrance of light at each level installing in the visitor a sense of luminosity and tranquility. The overlaps correspond to the expanding ramps visible from below culminating in a transparent dome covering the central area. In "the cathedral of art", observes Zevi, "Wright proposes a stroll through art, a road similar to a super-garage extending that of the city, enclosing it in an open spiral to re-converge with the urban context." Surely this is one of the most original complexes that the history of Museaum architecture has ever known where the problem of symbiosis with the works of art has been affronted, the museum being a means of emotional complicity whilst at the same time liberating the visitor to face the diverse experiences that art proposes as an intrinsic visualisor of reality.


This spacial articulation was envisioned as a path from the top of the building which slowly worked its way down to join the urban space from where it began. The continual spiral movement implies a more intimately natural adhesion between the creator and the exposed work of art encountered along the path.

Wright in this way excluded the usual passive design of an overlapping of each floor in an urban development of building and managed instead to create an upward spiral movement of each floor.

In this way no precise distinction exists between the upward and downward slopes and it is possible to have different perceptions of the surrounding space at all levels which increases or decreases according to a balance between an expansion or contraction of the events. At the different levels the various sectors of the exhibition are divided by separating elements which receive external light from a continual series of glass window slits, the main font of illumination, which introduce an interesting co-efficiency of variability linked to the alternating of day and night.

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