The Story Behind the Guggenheim

By: Hannah Bernstein

While the Guggenheim is home to some of the most iconic works of contemporary art, the museum itself is also considered a masterpiece. The Guggenheim is famous for its sloping curves, its gorgeous skylight, and it’s massive composition of 7,000 cubic feet of concrete and 700 tons of structural steel .  

The imposing form was designed by the revered Frank Lloyd Wright. It opened in 1959, more than ten years after Wright began working on it. It wasn’t easy to create such an unusual looking building.

Over the years, Wright made some 700 sketches and six drafts outlining his plans for the building . In fact, the process took so long that Wright never got to see his museum fully completed. He died 6 months before its opening. However, Wright lives on through his work, and his influence inspires many young architects today.




In the process of creating the structure, Wright had a lot of trouble finding subcontractors willing to work with him. The building’s unusual shape and appearance made many think its creation was impossible. The few willing to take on the task were people who had experience in building parking lots. After hearing this, it is impossible to unsee the uncanny resemblance.



At first, when commissioned to create the Guggenheim, Wright was disheartened at the chosen location. He wrote of New York, “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build [Guggenheim’s] great museum.” Guggenheim settled on placing the Museum on 5th Avenue, between 88th and 89th Street. This was an ideal location as it is very close to Central Park: a sort of natural respite from New York City’s more urban environment. Even in New York, Wright was able to incorporate his signature “organic architecture” style. It is said on the Guggenheim website that the galleries “are divided like the membranes in citrus fruit, with self-contained yet interdependent sections…The spiral design recalls a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another.”

The Guggenheim is designated as an official New York City landmark and is admired around the world for its fascinating shape. One of the Guggenheim’s current shows is a survey of Hilma af Klint, whose colorful abstract work pops against the white of the Guggenheim’s sloping walls. It is a sight to see, both for the exhibition, as well as the museum as a piece of art on its own.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar