The Simon R. Guggenheim Museum, at 1071 Fifth Avenue, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and completed just after his death. The design of the museum caused much controversy. Reactions ranged from “beautiful, simply beautiful” to “the great stone toilet bowl.”
The Guggenheim Museum nickname of “giant toilet bowl” is still recalled by many to describe the museum.
Wikipedia: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
The 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. It is the permanent home of a renowned and continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. The museum was established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1939 as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, under the guidance of its first director, the artist Hilla von Rebay. It adopted its current name after the death of its founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim, in 1952.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the cylindrical museum building, wider at the top than the bottom, was conceived as a “temple of the spirit” and is one of the 20th century’s most important architectural landmarks. The building opened on October 21, 1959, replacing rented spaces used by the museum since its founding. Its unique ramp gallery extends from just under the skylight in the ceiling in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building until it reaches the ground level.
On October 21, 1959, ten years after the death of Solomon Guggenheim and six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Museum first opened its doors to large crowds. The building instantly polarized architecture critics, though today it is widely praised. Some of the criticism focused on the idea that the building overshadows the artworks displayed inside, and that it is difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow, windowless, concave exhibition niches that surround the central spiral. Prior to its opening, twenty-one artists signed a letter protesting the display of their work in such a space.
Google News Archive
9 April 1959, Tri-City Herald (Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, WA), ‘Greatest Work Never Is Seen,” pg. 14, col. 2:
NEW YORK (AP)—Frank Lloyd Wright did not live to see completion of one of his personally most-prized possessions—and also one of his most controversial.
Right from the start it stirred an uproar among both designers and the man in the street. They’ve called it everything from “beautiful, simply beautiful” to “the great stone toilet bowl.”
Google News Archive
14 April 1959, Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, pg. 10A, col. 3:
Museum Disturbs Fifth Avenue
By HUGH MULLIGAN
Of the Associated Press
He calls it an “archeseum,” a word that hasn’t even made the unabridged dictionaries yet. It means, according to Wright’s definition, “a building in which to see the highest.”
But the neighbors, at least the outraged ones, have another word for it. Several, in fact. They call it, variously, the “concrete trash can,” the “upside down cake,” the “corkscrew,” “gourd of history,” the ‘Queen Mary”—because its north wing resembles a ship—“the poached egg” and, inelegantly, “the great stone toilet bowl.”
The Essential Charlotte
By Libby Schmais
New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books
The Guggenheim was also a particular favorite of Corinne’s. “Not the big toilet bowl again,” the twins would groan, dragging their platform heels. Corinne approached museums differently in different moods.
Frommer’s Portable New York City 2006
By Brian Silverman
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
... the Tower Galleries, an addition (accessible at every level) (Pg. 139—ed.) that some critics claimed made the entire structure look like a toilet bowl backed by a water tank (judge for yourself—I think there may be something to that view). 1071 Fifth Ave. (at 89th St.). & 212/423-3500. http://www.guggenheim.org.
Secret New York:
Exploring the City’s Hidden Neighborhoods
By Michelle Haimoff
Northampton, MA: Interlink Books
At first so controversial that its shape was likened to a toilet bowl, the Guggenheim building has become a New York landmark, even overshadowing the artwork inside.
October 21, 2010
10 Notable Buildings People Hated
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, New York
“A toilet bowl?” “A hangar for flying saucers?” These were some of the reactions to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the museum housing the art collection of Solomon Guggenheim. It was Wright’s first museum, and his first major building in New York City, which he disliked as “a forest of skyscrapers”. Wright was influenced by Guggenheim’s collection of abstract, modernist Wasilly Kandinsky paintings. The design featured a spiral topped with a dome. This prompted some critics to call it “an inverted potty” to “a gigantic snail shell”. And, indeed, Wright was inspired by the spirals of the chambered nautilus. Construction was due to begin in 1946, but was delayed by squabbles with locals and artists, until 1956. Guggenheim had died in 1949, but Wright was on hand to oversee the construction. The New York press continued to deride the building: a marshmallow, a corkscrew, an upside down washing machine. One of the construction workers called it “screwy. The whole joint goes round and round.”
New York City • Buildings/Housing/Parks • Wednesday, October 24, 2012 • Permalink