Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Architecture of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

"I believe in God, only I spell it Nature."

Nature, above all else, was Wright’s most inspirational force. He advised students to “study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” He did not suggest copying nature, but instead allowing it to be an inspiration.

Wright’s love and appreciation of nature began early in his life while working summers on his uncle’s farm. The rigorous routine, home-grown food, milking cows, putting up fences—all made a strong impression. In addition to the exhilaration of honest outdoor work, he was also learning to sense the deep mysteries of nature.

Wright often brought aspects of nature into his buildings with his use of natural light, plants, and water. At the Guggenheim Museum, it is thought that a nautilus shell inspired the spiral ramp and that the radial symmetry of a spider web informed the design of the rotunda skylight.

Eric Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, was one of his grandfather’s apprentices during the 1940s and 50s, when the Guggenheim Museum was designed. He recalls, “…every Sunday at breakfast he'd give us a talk… And sometimes he would have placed before him a whole bunch of seashells. And he said, "Look here, fellows. This is what nature produces. These shells all are based on the same basic principles, but all of them are different, and they're all created as a function of the interior use of that shell" (Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward Audioguide [New York: Antenna Audio, Inc. and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2009]).
However, Wright believed that nature’s secrets could only be discovered by diligent contemplation. Reality and truth were not to be found on the surface of things, but required extensive probing and thought to yield valuable lessons (Robert C. Twombly, Frank Lloyd Wright, An Interpretive Biography [New York: Harper & Row, 1973], p. 86).


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