1953 section of the proposed Guggenheim Museum design. Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

1953 section of the proposed Guggenheim Museum design. Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

In a recent blog post, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum explores unrealized design details from Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic design in New York City, based on blueprints and drawings from the museum’s archives. From large-scale questions of form to material choices, the 16-year period between the commission and the completion of the museum saw many design iterations. Most notable of these are the circulation paths drawn by Wright in the 1953 blueprints that include a steeper circular ramp—in addition to the “Grand Ramp”—that would allow for expedited access to the floors. Though replaced later with a triangular staircase, the “Quick Ramp” demonstrates Wright’s exploration of overlapping geometries.


Detail of the 1953 plan of the Guggenheim Museum that shows the proposed "quick ramp". Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Detail of the 1953 plan of the Guggenheim Museum that shows the proposed "quick ramp". Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Index of Surface Finishes from the 1953 blueprints of the Guggenheim Museum. Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Index of Surface Finishes from the 1953 blueprints of the Guggenheim Museum. Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Wright’s “Index of Surface Finishes” drawing shows another study the building went through during the design process. The index indicates a desire to have the ramps in cork, but due to financial and maintenance concerns it was ultimately completed in terrazzo—the material used in the rest of the museum. The collection also features photographs of the physical model made in 1945 to help the public visualize the unconventional design. Though the dome pattern has since changed, the model is strong in its use of section to convey Wright’s vision of connectivity and light that remains today.


Detail of the 1953 section of the Guggenheim Museum showing the proposed "quick ramp". Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Detail of the 1953 section of the Guggenheim Museum showing the proposed "quick ramp". Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

The 1945 model of the Guggenheim, before the design was extended to 89th street. Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

The 1945 model of the Guggenheim, before the design was extended to 89th street. Image © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

To learn more about the Guggenheim’s design history, and the decisions that led to the building that now stands, read the original article by Ashley Mendelsohn on the Guggenheim blog here.