Still quite crisp and elegant from the inside. The exterior could use a little work, though; the paint or stucco is peeling in some parts and is dirty in others.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
at 89th Street
New York, NY 10012
Saturday-Wednesday 10 AM - 5:45 PM
Friday 10 AM - 8 PM
Closed Thursdays and Christmas Day, open all other holidays
Students and Seniors (65 years +) with valid ID $10
Children under 12 Free
Still quite crisp and elegant from the inside. The exterior could use a little work, though; the paint or stucco is peeling in some parts and is dirty in others.
It's such an interesting museum. My favourite works were from Picasso and Boccioni. The minimalists were interesting to say the least. I kept wondering if one of them could paint my apartment Seriously, it was very cool.
I would say that my favourite piece was Boccioni's Materia. Picasso's Woman Ironing was great as well. The video and computer art was interesting... hmmm, one of my computer crashes could be art!
June 10, 2004
Guggenheim Reviving Its Main Asset: Itself
By CAROL VOGEL
An aerial view from the late 1950's of construction on the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Guggenheim Museum in New York is showing its age in its cracked facade.
After 45 years the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright's soaring spiral that has become one of Manhattan's greatest tourist attractions, will undergo a major facelift. And while it has good bones, like many Wright buildings the Upper East Side landmark is plagued with cracks, leaks and corroding surfaces.
"The care and preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright building has been a priority for us," Thomas Krens, the museum's director, said.
Calling it "the most important piece of art in the collection," Peter B. Lewis, a Cleveland-based philanthropist, chairman of the museum's board and a trustee since 1993, has pledged to match trustee gifts three to one for the project.
So far the Guggenheim has raised $20 million from Mr. Lewis and a group of trustees. Museum officials say they need at least $5 million more and are hoping for support from the city and state as well as private donations.
The building on Fifth Avenue at 89th Street will remain open during the restoration, which is expected to take two years. In addition to removing nine coats of paint, right down to the building's structure, to properly fix its cracking surface, the project also includes repairing the sidewalk, with its metallic rings set into concrete. Inside the building, the terrazzo floor in the main rotunda will also be restored, and the climate control and security systems updated.
Since it opened in 1959, drawing huge crowds and controversy because of its design, the building, with its spiraled interior rising 96 feet, has been the primary reason many people go to the Guggenheim. A Gallup poll taken in early 1960 showed that nearly 4 out of every 10 visitors (38 percent) said they came to the Guggenheim specifically for the building; 53 percent said they came to see both the building and the collection, and only 5 percent said they came just for the art.
Today's audiences are much the same, museum officials say. After the Sept. 11 attacks, when tourism to New York plummeted, so did the Guggenheim's attendance. Although it fell more than 50 percent in October 2001, the overall decline in the fourth quarter was only 17 percent.
Museum surveys show that for the 900,000 to 1,000,000 people who visit every year, the building consistently ranked over the art as the reason for visiting. Architecture buffs say the Guggenheim is Wright's most visited building and his only major commission in New York City.
Neither the building's design, which was commissioned by the Guggenheim in 1943, nor its construction, which was completed in 1959, went smoothly. The only builder Wright could find to execute his drawings economically was a man whose expertise was in constructing parking garages and freeways. The building's outer wall was made by spraying layers of gunite (a mixture of sand and cement commonly used to line swimming pools) from within the building, through steel reinforcements, against pieces of plywood that were molded into the building's shape. Every few years the exterior is patched and painted, but the cosmetic touches camouflage far deeper problems.
In extremely cold weather, moisture from the skylights and windows that have not been sufficiently insulated drips down on some interior walls. Long, stuffed tubes of absorbent material, giant sponges that resemble blue sausages (the museum calls them socks), are placed along perimeter floors to absorb condensation. In the rotunda, some socks have been discreetly tucked behind paintings hung on brackets away from the walls. The museum has also had to deal with leaking pipes.
Earlier this year the museum hired Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, a Manhattan firm perhaps best known for restoring the Statue of Liberty, to assess the condition of the building. A feasibility study will be presented to the museum this week. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, Manhattan architects, has also been consulted. No stranger to the Guggenheim, Gwathmey Siegel renovated the interior of the building in 1992 and added a 10-story tower loosely inspired by Wright's original drawings.
For 16 years under Mr. Krens, the Guggenheim has focused on forging an international network of museums. It now has locations in Venice, Berlin, Las Vegas and Bilbao, Spain, along with partnerships with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Mr. Krens has set his sights on building other Guggenheims around the world using world-class architects as part of the attraction, as he did with the Guggenheim Bilbao, by Frank Gehry. In the planning stages is a $130 million museum on Maua Pier in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, by the Paris architect Jean Nouvel. A feasibility study was completed last fall for a Guggenheim Taichung in Taiwan, designed by the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid.
The New York restoration is the beginning of what the museum hopes will be a larger capital initiative. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which owns the museum, is considering creating new amenities like public access to the rotunda roof. Much like the Metropolitan Museum of Art's popular sculpture roof terrace, the roof of the Guggenheim has stunning views of the city and could be transformed into a sculpture garden.
Also under consideration is converting offices on the ninth floor of the Gwathmey Siegel tower into a restaurant and relocating those offices to SoHo, where the majority of the staff now work. The foundation is also considering reinforcing the Gehry-designed canopy on the museum's fifth floor. (In 2001 the New York City Landmarks Commission gave the museum a six-year permit for the structure, a large stainless steel sculptural form that sits above the museum's sculpture terrace.) Charles Gwathmey said yesterday that in addition to the restoration of the facade, his firm plans to be working on designing these future projects.
Since joining the museum's board 11 years ago, Mr. Lewis has been the institution's biggest donor. This is the fourth major gift he has made to the Guggenheim, bringing his donations to more than $77 million.
The addition of two real estate developers to the board — William Mack, founder and managing partner of Apollo Real Estate Advisers, and Stephen M. Ross, founder and chief executive of the Related Companies — in October has helped provide the expertise for restoring the Wright building. The Guggenheim is expected to begin a capital campaign drive in the fall not only to raise money for the facade but also to create an endowment earmarked for building maintenance.
Before any work begins, however, the plans will be presented to Community Board 8 and will need to be approved by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Restoring a Masterpiece
The museum and its galleries remain open during the restoration.
Throughout 2006, visitors to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will pass under scaffolding made necessary by a major restoration of the building’s famed exterior. Although much admired, the innovative concrete structure, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, has been plagued by surface cracks almost since it opened in 1959.
In 2005, some 12 layers of paint applied over the past 46 years were removed and the building’s concrete surface has been revealed, allowing for close analysis of the building’s surface. Detailed monitoring of the movement of selected cracks over an entire year, laser surveys, and other studies will be used by the restoration team to formulate an appropriate methodology to repair the cracks and ensure the building’s long-term health. The repair and repainting is expected to be completed by the end of 2007, in time for the building’s 50th anniversary. The museum is expected to remain open throughout the restoration process.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and its representative, Paratus Group, have retained an extraordinary team, including the leading experts in their fields, to plan and implement the restoration:
Preservation Architect: Wank Adams Slavin Associates, LLP
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates, PC
Mechanical Engineer: Atkinson Koven Feinberg Engineers, LLP
Construction Manager: F.J. Sciame Construction Company
Architectural Conservator: Integrated Conservation Resources
Consultant on Thermal and Moisture Migration: William B. Rose & Associate
The restoration of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is made possible through the generous support of Peter B. Lewis, the Board of Trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and the City of New York under the auspices of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the City Council.
[url=http://www.guggenheim.org/podcasts/2006/GUGGENHEIM_podcast_2006_1.mp3]Download "Exterior Restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building (10 MB, audio only, 8 min 45 sec)" mp3
I was privleged to visit The Guggenheim just after it's interior restortion.The show I saw was "The Art of The Motorcycle",a collection of a hundred bikes,from old to new (many of them belonging to Malcom Forbes and Steve McQueen) arrayed along the interior spiral ramp.Side galleries held contemporary art related to bikes and some of the Museum's permanent collections.
It was almost an irony,this show,so far from what one would think a "serious" institution like a Museum would choose to showcase,but it's Creator (a notorious iconoclast ) would have deemed it appropriate,I'm sure.
It looked cool too,seeing all that iron and chrome spiraling downward (or upward,if you think that way)--five floors of mechanized history.
The building sparkled,its lobby and ramps filled with sunlight pouring through the intricate skylight above.Water tinkled in the pond.Compared to what it had been a few years earlier,it looked nice.They were still working on the outside.
I had been to the Guggenheim several times previously and noted how shabby the structure was becoming.For some reason,the panels along the front never have lined up,so from the get-go the building looked haphazard,but now the stucco was falling from the facade like a hard snow and the place looked unkempt,like it was temporary.
I think they even roped off the sidewalk,so much stucco was falling off,and the building was full of cracks and other deterioration--streaked windows,rust runs,leaks.
Oh,and there was a gross growth on the Rose Window,blocking a lot of the interior's light.
I'm a BIG fan of Frank Lloyd Wright's,and was really proud that he would have designed his only New York structure in such an odd,quirky way,so I was dismayed that the Trustees had allowed it to get so gringy.It's really one of the City's true Landmarks.
Wright's design for the Museum totally broke from tradition and showed museums everywhere that Roman or Greek buildings did not have to be their default architecture in order to be taken seriously.Museum-building has never been the same since The Guggenheim landed on Earth.
It is a real diamond on the City's Crown.
Wright also punched a hole in the traditional street "wall" that defines Fifth Avenue and built an organic icon that just jumps out from it's surroundings.I was sort of apprehensive that the setting would become altered when they built the tower to the East,but I've come to accept it.
His concepts were brilliant and many became immediate masterpieces,but they were built to an idea rather than a plan,so they were fragile and had a lot of mistakes designed into them.
Many of his structures were unusable for a while,like the Johnson's Wax Building in Wisconsin.It's "lily pad" roof leaked the first time it rained;the magnificent "Falling Waters" became a shower stall for it's owners as soon as they took occupancy and other of his buildings shifted or required shoring and patching in order to be useful.Most of his commercial structures were very High Maintainence,and many have been allowed to crumble.
Mostly,the design errors involved water,and that was true for the Guggenheim as well.
I am glad that the building has been snatched from the jaws of decrepitude and I hope it never again gets to the state it once was in.
September 27, 2006
Guggenheim Comes Up With Plans for Restoring Structure
By KATE TAYLOR - Staff Reporter of the Sun
With little fanfare, the Guggenheim Museum has arrived at a plan for restoring its iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building. Scaffolding has been up on the building for more than a year, during which intensive testing was done to determine how extensive a renovation the exterior would need.
There is good news and bad news in the tests' conclusions. The good news is that the numerous cracks in the building's exterior, which the museum worried might necessitate a complete overhaul of the façade, can be filled.
The bad news is that the museum has to replace all of its windows and skylights, which have been plagued with condensation.
Unwanted moisture has been a curse for many of Wright's buildings. The architect's famous indifference to leaks is expressed in a well-known, and probably apocryphal, story: Herbert "Hib" Johnson, for whom Wright designed a huge house called Wingspread, in Wisconsin, is supposed to have telephoned Wright in the middle of a dinner party to complain that a roof leak was dripping right onto his head. "Well, Hib," Wright supposedly responded, "why don't you move your chair?"
The preservation architect for the Guggenheim's restoration, Wank Adams Slavin Associates, also handled the restoration in the 1990's of another of Wright's famous buildings, Fallingwater, in western Pennsylvania. WASA's director of preservation, Pamela Jerome, said that Fallingwater had over 50 chronic leaks, some of them caused by condensation. "There were a million reasons why water was leaking –– most of them his design," she said. "It was a design-based pathology."
Ms. Jerome takes a humorous attitude toward the practical failings of Wright's constructions. "He was a fabulous designer. He was very concerned with aesthetics, less so with the details of making things watertight or structurally sound," she said. "It's up to people like WASA to basically figure out how to make these buildings function better."
The Guggenheim declined to comment on the restoration. The museum will host a presentation by the architects later in the fall, before the actual work begins. The project is expected to cost $28 million, of which city contributed $7 million.
© 2006 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC.
The Restorers’ Art of the Invisible
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
The Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,
is undergoing a renovation, with upgrades and updates.
By ROBIN POGREBIN
September 10, 2007
Visitors wandering through the Richard Pousette-Dart exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum seem oblivious to the scaffolding and hard hats in their midst. But for the people behind the scenes, the work unfolding within the museum’s curved white walls is as engrossing as the art displayed on them.
For the last three years a team of engineers, conservators and architects has been studying the guts of the Guggenheim, mapping out a thorough but respectful renovation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling building on Fifth Avenue, completed in 1959. Although it was clearly in serious need of renewal, with cracks in its facade, a decaying sidewalk and outdated mechanical systems, experts wanted to make a comprehensive diagnosis before determining the best course of treatment.
Now they have a plan — already in action — and the end is in sight. The work is expected to be completed by summer 2008. “It’s taken us three years to get to the point where we’re actually intervening,” said Pamela Jerome of Wasa Studio, the preservation architect on the project.
And on a recent walk through the museum, which will remain open throughout the renovation, the specialists involved talked about what they had discovered and strategies they have devised. Ms. Jerome has faced major renovation challenges before, including the sagging cantilevers and damaged stucco of Fallingwater, the residence designed by Wright in rural Mill Run, Pa.
But the Guggenheim’s structural complexities, she said, made this project more daunting. In addition to repairing the facade, the $29 million renovation involves upgrading the cooling systems and updating the elevators and bathrooms.
Perhaps the team’s most crucial realization was that workers in the 1950s had failed to provide continuous horizontal steel reinforcement in the walls on the sixth ramp, as they had on the lower ramp walls. The sixth is twice the height of the lower ones and leans outward at a different angle, the museum says.
The original building lacked insulation. In a 1992 project devised by the architect Charles Gwathmey, insulation was finally installed, improving the situation. But some gaps were left on the apron slab, where the floor meets the wall, creating condensation problems that are now being addressed. Strips of carbon fiber are being installed in the concrete walls to create a seamless, protective exterior envelope.
As the work proceeds, the walls’ interiors are exposed, as they must have been when the building was under construction. “It’s the first time we’re seeing what Frank Lloyd Wright saw,” said Glenn Boornazian, president of Integrated Conservation Resources, who is the principal conservator on the project.
Wright is never far from anyone’s mind. Paramount goals are to make the work almost imperceptible and to adhere to the building’s original form to the greatest extent possible.
“From a preservation point of view, you don’t want to change the external appearance,” said Robert Silman, president of Robert Silman Associates, the project’s structural engineers.
When it came to the windows and skylights, then, the specialists wanted to improve them without replacing them. The windows, though, are not double-glazed and don’t provide adequate insulation. So the architects decided to replicate their form but substitute new glass with advanced thermal qualities that has been tested for water and air infiltration. (They have not yet undergone tests for pigeon-proofing, Ms. Jerome said).
Similarly the conservators tried to find repair materials — concrete patching compounds, acrylic crack fillers, expandable surface coatings — that “would be physically and aesthetically compatible,” Mr. Boornazian said. After identifying about 20 manufacturers that deal with concrete restoration, they narrowed the list to six and then subjected their materials to rigorous weather testing.
“Just as Frank Lloyd Wright was on the cutting edge of using materials, he forced us to think of solutions in unusual ways,” Mr. Boornazian said.
Wright was among the first to use gunite — sprayed concrete — on a large architectural scale, which allowed him to create his smooth unbroken curves, Mr. Boornazian said. To give the Guggenheim’s surface a monolithic appearance, he added, Wright left out expansion joints, which would have created visual vertical breaks.
Wright’s professional reputation has emerged intact, experts involved in the project say. The building’s flaws lay in its execution, not its conception. Exposed to high winds and extreme variations in temperature, the walls have continually expanded and contracted. They will still be flexible but will become more resilient, with concealed control joints that allow the gunite to expand and contract without cracking.
As part of its preparatory research the team studied the Guggenheim’s archives, including photographs taken during construction; written documentation of the building process; correspondence between Wright and the contractor; and original architectural and shop drawings.
The building was then stripped of as many as 11 layers of paint, and experts conducted a 17-month survey of thousands of cracks of varying magnitude in the facade. Using impact-echo technology, in which sound waves are sent into the concrete and the rebound is measured, the engineers located voids within the walls.
To map the geometry of the museum and determine its load-bearing capacity, the engineers relied on laser measuring, a fairly tricky matter given the building’s spiral and its sloping walls. “We think it’s the largest laser model ever constructed,” Mr. Silman said. “It took up the whole memory on the computer.”
They also submitted their findings to two peer review panels of experts in architectural restoration, materials conservation, structural engineering as well as an environmental envelope specialist.
“We all believe, when we finish, this building will be better than new,” said Marc H. Steglitz, the museum’s chief operating officer. “And we’ll get another 50 years out of it.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Copyright 2007The New York Times Company
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
The museum has cracks in its facade, a decaying sidewalk
and outdated mechanical systems.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Strips of carbon fiber are being used to reinforce the outer walls.
Copyright 2007The New York Times Company
September 26, 2007
Painting Guggenheim Wrights Color
By ROBIN POGREBIN
Nearly 50 years after Frank Lloyd Wright chose a paint chip for the color of his beloved Guggenheim Museum, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the way yesterday for the correct hue to be applied to the 1959 building. The museum had sought the commission’s permission to paint the exterior in Benjamin Moore HC-35, an egg-finish shade recommended by outside conservation experts. They found it was the closest match to a paint chip that was signed by Wright and stamped July 24, 1958. The commission’s approval is needed because of the Guggenheim’s status as a protected landmark and its location in the Carnegie Hill historic district. Experts say the building’s original coat was supposed to be the darkest of three samples of a color called Cocoon. Instead, the building was coated in the lightest of the three Cocoon samples, with no clear explanation, the landmarks commission said. A thorough analysis of the museum’s finish has revealed as many as 12 coats of paint, including four grayish-white layers applied since 1992; four buff layers applied from the 1960s back to the 1950s; the original light Cocoon; and, finally, the blue primer. According to the analysis, Wright’s intent was always to coat the building in an egg finish. “He apparently hated white,” said Elisabeth de Bourbon, a commission spokeswoman.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Here it is:
More on the color ...
A decorating dilemma at Guggenheim Museum
BY KARLA SCHUSTER
October 13, 2007
A woman walking her two dogs along Fifth Avenue recently stared up at the Guggenheim Museum and contemplated the paint swatches hanging from the northeast side of the building, high above the street.
The first, a buff yellow, represents the original exterior color chosen by the museum's architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The second is a sample of the off-white shade that, with slight variations, has been the museum's public face for years.
"The yellow one ... it looks too urine-y," she said, shaking her head. "I think Frank Lloyd Wright probably would have decided to change it to the lighter color eventually anyway."
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is getting a new coat of paint, but this is no ordinary decorating dilemma.
Not when the appearancee of one of America's most distinctive structures and the legacy of one of its most esteemed architects is at stake.
The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must approve changes to the museum's exterior, may settle the question as early as this week.
Warm yellowish beige or cool, grayish white? Or, in the words of Benjamin Moore: Powell Buff or London Fog?
But a more complicated set of concerns emerged at a commission hearing last month, with sentiment split between historic preservation groups that favor restoring the building to its original color and neighborhood organizations that support the museum's proposal to keep the building an off-white shade the public is familiar with.
Wright, the historical groups point out, was notoriously picky and disliked white so much that he tried (unsuccessfully) to prevent the museum from painting the interior walls that color.
"This is the most visible work of the greatest American architect," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. "Maybe we should treat it with some more respect."
But museum officials and neighborhood groups argue that the building was buff yellow for only its first five years, and that after four additions, the museum is more than the iconic circular structure designed by Wright.
"I've talked to lots and lots of people and I have yet to find somebody who remembers this building buff yellow," said Pamela Jerome, director of Wanks Adams Slavin Associates, the project's preservation architect. "This is not black and white. It's an extremely complex question, as stupid as that sounds for mere paint."
Still, in some ways, it's a lot like any other paint job -- with a few twists.
Layers of paint
The museum had to strip the facade, although in this case, that meant removing 11 layers of paint and performing scientific analyses on each one, using electron microscopy and infrared spectroscopy.
Officials reviewed paint chips – but these chips are nearly 50 years old and bear Wright's initials on the shade he liked best.
The landmarks commissioners have visited the museum at different times of the day to compare the swatches on the museum's exterior, except that these swatches are actually plywood panels that only can been seen from the Central Park side of Fifth Avenue and 89th Street.
The paint job is part of a $27 million museum refurbishment begun in 2005. The city has authority over such projects since the building was designated a landmark in 1990.
There have been four additions to the museum since it first opened in 1959, the most significant of which was a large tower built in 1992.
Throughout the years, the iconic circular structure designed by Wright also has undergone many paint jobs, slowly evolving from its original color to the off-white shade proposed by the museum today. That color matches the shade the building was painted in 1992.
Their proposal, museum officials say, adheres to philosophy called "progressive authenticity", which suggests that a structure's historical significance evolves over time.
"What we're saying is we don't have a pristine Frank Lloyd Wright building," Jerome told the commissioners last month. " ... do we go back to the original or do we acknowledge the building is a living organism that has been subjected to many changes and alterations."
Debate over intent
At first, no one was quite sure what the original color had been until the paint was stripped from the building. And even now, there is some debate about what Wright's intentions really were.
One local historian insists he has seen an early Wright rendering that showed the museum covered in ivy. A recent article in an academic journal contends that in his very earliest drawings of the museum, circa 1943, Wright conceived of an exterior covered in bright red or orange marble, with verdigris copper banding on the top and bottom.
In March 1958, Wright initialed a paint chip identified as "PV-020", from a new type of paint called "Cocoon" that was considered state-of-art for durability at the time, according to documents in the museum's archives. A few months later, a letter from the museum's clerk of works to the painting contractor indicates that Wright chose the "middle sample" of three that had been applied to a wall of the museum's exterior.
The museum was originally painted the color of that middle sample. But the middle sample and the paint chip Wright signed -- while very close in color -- do not match exactly, according to scientific analysis.
Complicating matters more, Wright did not live to see the museum completed and opened. He died in April 1959. The museum opened that October.
"I'm torn between giving preference to the current custodians of the building ... and giving preference to Frank Lloyd Wright," Landmarks Commission Chairman Robert Tierney said at the hearing, "given we know with certainty what his preference was."
"Frank Lloyd Wright never really saw the original color because he died before it was finished," said Lo van der Valk, president of Carnegie Hill Neighbors, a community group that supports the museum's plan. "We think the museum researched this very thoroughly."
Seri Worden, chairwoman of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District, thinks New Yorkers should see the museum how Wright envisioned it.
"Let's go back to the real first edition," she said. "If the people of New York don't know what color Frank Lloyd Wright made this building, I think they should know. What other choice is there?"
Copyright © 2007, AM New York
AM New York
November 21, 2007
Guggenheim will get to keep new color
By Karla Schuster
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2007.
Photos: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Using 50-year-old paint chips, swatches hung high above Fifth Avenue and complex chemical analyses, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission settled an Upper East Side decorating dilemma like no other Tuesday, endorsing an off-white color for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
"This debate has been watched by the entire world," said commission member Margery Permutter, before the panel approved the museum's petition to paint the exterior of the iconic circular structure a cool, grayish white. "People in Paris were asking me 'What color is the Guggenheim going to be?'"
The question vexed the museum, neighborhood groups, historians and preservationists for months, with sentiment split between two colors: the off-white shade that has been the public face of the museum for years and a buff yellow color that represents the building's original hue when it opened in 1959.
The museum and neighborhood groups argued for the off-white, saying the building had been that color, with slight variations, for most of its existence. But historical groups pointed out that the museum's famed and famously finicky architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, hated white and had clearly preferred a warmer hue for what is arguably his most well-known work.
The new paint job is the last step of a $27 million refurbishment that began in 2005 and should be completed by next spring, museum officials said.
Before recommending the off-white, the museum stripped 11 coats of paint from the building and performed scientific analyses on each, and dusted off archived paint chips initialed by Wright. It also hung oversized paint swatches on the northeast side of the museum so commission members could compare the two colors at different times of the day.
Museum Director Thomas Krens told the commission that the buff yellow would create a "jarring" contrast with the rest of the neighborhood and could generate "enough controversy about the building that it might not necessarily be an appropriate choice."
Yet even as he recommended the off-white, Krens admitted that it was "a very close call. I have to say that if I were to dial up Frank Lloyd Wright right now and ask him what his preference might be, he might well choose the original color."
But in the end, the commission approved the museum's recommendation by a 7-2 vote, citing conflicting evidence about Wright's intentions, the fact that the architect did not live to see the museum completed and that the building was the original buff color for only its first four years.
"It's really quite ambiguous in terms of what Frank Lloyd Wright originally wanted," said commission member Roberta Brandes Gratz, who voted for off-white. "He was just the kind of character who might have made them change it on sight if he didn't like it once it was finished."
Stephen Byrns, who cast one of the dissenting votes, argued that Wright's preference was clear enough to guide the panel's decision.
"He was the greatest architect in our country and his museum is a masterpiece," Byrns said. "The chemical analysis clearly shows that the original colors were darker. It did get lighter over time. People's tastes change, but I don't think this is a question about people's taste."
Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.
Last edited by BigMac; November 21st, 2007 at 12:26 PM.