The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum that is location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City remains one of the great modern architectural accomplishments. It stands out as a unique structure between the other more traditional buildings on Fifth Avenue. It was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and construction was delayed for a 16 year period. The museum was only completed after the death of the architect. There are several unique features of the building that were designed with a specific purpose in mind:
An Inverted Ziggurat
The design of the Guggenheim was meant to imitate an ancient structure known as a ziggurat. A ziggurat is a pyramid that has a walkway along the outer edges that grows narrower as it rises towards the pinnacle. The Guggenheim is an inverted ziggurat because the outer walls and the walkway inside grow wider as the building rises.
Visitors to the Guggenheim first enter into a large rotunda. This is a vast, spacious area that sits at the base of the open center of the museum. The spiraling walkway can be seen rising upwards until it reaches the large skylight at the top of the building. The rotunda allows guests to fully understand and appreciate the architectural and sculptural elements of the building in one panoramic view. This is also a common area where visitors can gather before embarking up the ramp, where moving companies frequently transport artwork in and out of the museum.
A Spiral Walkway
The most well-known and distinctive feature of the Guggenheim is the spiraling walkway that moves slowly up the cylindrical walls of the building. Guests are able to walk in a single line up towards the top of the museum while experiencing artwork in a very personal way because of the closeness of the walls. Once at the top of the museum the design encourages people to turn around and descend back down the ramp on the opposite side. The ramp was intentionally constructed in this way so that the artwork would be the focus while ascending and so that people who were returning to the ground floor could look out over the entire museum as they walked without feeling trapped by a confusing maze of exhibition rooms.
The Guggenheim was not built without controversy. It cost more than expected and was objected to by artists who felt that they could not display flat paintings in a rounded and gently curving space. The building has required two renovations that totaled more than ten times the original price of construction. The museum stands today as part of a network of museums around the world that are known for amazing and distinct architecture.