The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 5th Avenue New York, sometimes known as The Guggenheim, is an art gallery located at 1071 Fifth Avenue, on the intersection of East 89th Street in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It hosts special exhibits throughout the year and houses a permanent collection of works by Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, early Modernists, and contemporary artists. Under the direction of its first director, Hilla von Rebay, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation founded the museum in 1939 as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The museum took on its current name three years after the founding director Solomon R. Guggenheim’s passing in 1952.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic 20th-century architectural design for the museum building, which took 15 years to plan and construct and was finished in 1959, sparked debate because of the peculiar shapes of its exhibition spaces. It comprises a ten-story annex to the northeast and a four-story “monitor” to the north. The main gallery with a bowl-shaped design and is six stories to the south.

The main gallery may have a central ceiling skylight, a six-story spiral ramp, and other features. There are additional galleries in the annex and a study center in the basement. The Thannhauser Collection was held in the top three levels of the monitor when the annex was constructed in 1990–1992. The structure underwent substantial restorations and enlargement, then again in 2005–2008.


Wright used geometric shapes such as squares, circles, rectangles, triangles, and lozenges in the Guggenheim Museum 5th Avenue New York design. Two spiraling buildings comprise the massing: the six-story main gallery to the south and the smaller “monitor” to the north. They are joined on the second story by a “bridge” From Central Park, the ten-story rectangular addition may be seen to the northeast, hidden behind the spiraling buildings.

Wright’s efforts “to reflect the intrinsic fluidity of organic forms in architecture” are represented by the structure. Wright included natural elements in his design while expressing his opinion on the strict geometry of modernist architecture. “These geometric forms indicate particular human thoughts, emotions, and sentiments—as an example: the circle, infinity; the triangle, structural unity; the spiral, organic movement; and the square, integrity,” wrote Wright of the building’s designs. Oval-shaped columns, for instance, repeat the geometry of the fountain. From the main gallery to the inlays on the terrazzo flooring of the museum, circularity is the recurring element.

Guggenheim Museum 5TH AVENUE NEW YORK


Wright had intended to create a marble exterior. Still, contractor George N. Cohen decided to use gunite, a sprayed concrete, to save money. The building’s façade features a tile with Wright and Cohen’s names. This feature is perhaps the only instance in which Wright and a builder shared credit for a structure’s creation. Wright had also suggested a red exterior, but Wright never carried it out. Instead, a “cocoon,” a layer of ivory-colored vinyl plastic, was applied to the exterior.

The facade was created without expansion joints because the engineers engaged in the initial construction believed that the “cocoon” would not crack; nevertheless, their assumptions proved incorrect as the facade deteriorated over time. Conservators discovered that the facade was initially painted a brownish-yellow color, repeatedly painted with white or off-white throughout the years.

The pavement outside the museum serves as a forecourt. It has metal circles on its surface that resemble the pattern on the floor inside the museum. Curving parapets surround planting areas, some below ground level, right next to the sidewalk. Initially, bushes, sycamore trees, and other plants were present in the planting beds.


The monitor area to the north, the enormous main gallery to the south, and a lecture hall below the main gallery make up most of Guggenheim’s interior. The bookshop is located in the space formerly the museum’s driveway, east of the main entrance. A tiny, round vestibule with a low plaster ceiling and recessed lighting is located south of the main entry. It has metal arcs on the floor and a modest circular design.

An elevator and a staircase are located in the triangular service core that forms the northeast corner of the main gallery. The elevator is situated inside a semicircular shaft, and the staircase is around it. The core also houses the toilets and the mechanical spaces. According to author Robert McCarter, Wright wanted people to experience the museum on foot. Therefore, he employed “full geometries” for the steps and ramps. The interior’s unconventional shape necessitated the employment of curved furnishings in other spaces, such as the staff kitchen. The interior of Guggenheim Museum 5th Avenue New York is typically painted white. Some areas are painted over daily.


The Thannhauser Collection is housed in the “monitor” of the Guggenheim Museum 5th Avenue New York. Its galleries encircle a circular atrium, except for a stair hall at one end of the area. Like the main gallery, the monitor has a triangular service core, although its core is located in the middle of the construction. Thannhauser initially planned this monitor to feature residences for Rebay and Guggenheim. This portion became offices and storage space. The second floor of the monitor was restored in 1965 to house part of the museum’s increasing permanent collection. In 1980, a portion of the fourth level was similarly altered. The museum’s second through fourth floors was turned into exhibition space and renamed the Thannhauser Building after its renovation in the early 1990s.

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