The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim ExternalThe Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (often referred to as “The Guggenheim”) is a well-known art museum located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City.  The building opened on October 21, 1959, replacing rented spaces used by the museum since its founding.

The function of a museum is to display works of paintings, statues and other forms of art. This building was designed with this specifically in mind, and to me it seems to be a very clever idea for the purpose. However, the museum should ideally not overpower what it is designed to display and this layout and design could easily become as much of a display item as the artwork within and this is not its supposed purpose.

I feel that the lack of inner walls of the spiral shape could give the building an open plan feel can distract the art-viewing public from the piece in front of them due to so many pieces being visible at once and distractions from other parts of the museum. The lack of inner walls also reduces the amount of wall space for displaying artwork as their collection grows.

GuggenheimThe form of a spiral and single direction to travel in allows a viewer to move around and view every item in order rather than the more conventional method of navigating around corridors and rooms, back tracking and trying not to miss anything. The conventional idea of room, or “white boxes” with artificial lighting as a simple and the most effective way to display artwork is clearly challenged here with the works instead all being displayed in what is effectively one large spiral room. The museum has a large skylight that allows for natural light to enter the building which has had mixed feedback from critics due to its unique nature and the concern that natural sunlight could damage paintings or other arts.

The entry to the museum is made clear and so is its purpose, you enter an elevator and then follow the spiral all the way down viewing the artwork as you go. With this entrance and layout as it is the artwork can be easily be displayed in a set order to optimize its impact.

A museum should be able to stand the test of time and be adaptable to changes within the museum and to different displays of artwork. The effectiveness of this museum to adapt to new displays and different forms of art seems to be questionable due to the layout that cannot be easily adjusted for different purposes.

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