joy magnetism: Of architectural merit

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Of architectural merit

Magnet #354 - Guggenheim New York

Ya'll wouldn't believe how many Guggenheim NY magnets I have. And I bought them all in one fell swoop. In my defense, they were packaged as sets, so it's not like I set out to buy six Guggenheim magnets all at once.

I visited for the first time late last year. I'd been to the shop (of course), but once they started renovating, I wanted to wait until it was complete before I went.

Waiting was well worth it. I love it. Seriously. It's gorgeous - you can see my one pic here, or do a Google Images search for it. I couldn't tell you a thing about the stuff on the walls. (Not quite true, but since it was my first time, I just wasn't really paying any attention at all to the artwork housed inside.)

And, of course I'd love this building - it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, whom I've written about a ton here on joy magnetism. It was completed in 1959, and sadly, FLW himself didn't live to see the final result. Indeed, he got the call for it in 1943, and then spent the next several years fighting everyone over it - clients, public opinion, etc. It was 1956 before he delivered the final design.

You know, I'm always wondering about the longevity of FLW's work. It's gorgeous, but I've often wondered if he thought they would last forever, his imprint on this earth. Or, if, because he built with mostly natural materials and had that closeness with the land reflected in his work, he thought his work would naturally wither and decay.

Case in point - the Ennis-Brown house that we visited years ago. I think they do periodic tours there, but it was totally deserted and fairly in disrepair when we visited years ago. But that was built in the 1920s, so it's to be expected.

The Guggenheim's a bit newer, and though it's been just over a half a century since, it still needed a ton of restoration...where according to Arch Record, the renovation team took off 11 coats of paint! Dudes! Then, when they got down to the concrete, they discovered hundreds of surface cracks. Which then meant they had to evaluate the entire building for its structural integrity. Whoops.

It actually turned out to be fine, and they were able to fix whatever they needed to fix, and made sure to paint it with an appropriate protective paint coat. Which then meant they had to decide what color to paint the building. When they got down to the first layer of paint, they discovered that it was a brownish-yellowish shade. And thus began the controversy, that was finally resolved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Hah. There's a part of me that thinks that maybe we should have remained true to FLW's vision (if indeed that's really what he wanted). But honestly, that means that there would have been an upside-down Pooh Bear beehive sitting up on Fifth Ave.

In the end, they decided to leave it the color that everyone had gotten used to - depending on who you ask - it's gray or off white or whatever. (According to the NYTs it's really Tnemec BF72 Platinum - goodness, J Crew was nowhere near that color, huh.)

So now, $29 million later, they're back open for business. I'm so happy the building's lost its scaffolding, and that it's back. I've superexcited, because in May they're mounting "From Within Outward", an exhibition for FLW's work. Seriously can't wait.

Oh, I could go on about FLW, but I'll stop. After all there are several more magnets to get through. Hah.

One last thing that I'm sad about is that FLW didn't heart NYC - according to the Guggenheim site, "the city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit."
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Cameron McEwan said...

that is a tops magnet.

i lurve the guggenheim!

joy said...

Heh. Thanks. But wait, there's more!

Or rather, there will be down the line. :-)