When a cone is inverted

Q: What happens when you invert a cone?

A: It becomes an architectural landmark.

THERE it is! A white inverted cone. Just across the park.

And so the journey continues around the parking zone where the most impressive structures in the Big Apple sit on gold-cost land.

From the posh Central Park West address of the American Museum of Natural History, we move across Central Park to another chic address where the famed inverted cone structure stands. Another noted NYC museum along Fifth Avenue of the Upper East Side is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, often referred to as The Guggenheim. This uniquely designed architectural structure amidst New York’s box buildings landscape is certainly an eye-catcher.

No other person can build such an innovative structure than the “greatest architect of all times,” himself, Frank Lloyd Wright. The man who promoted “organic architecture” -architecture that seemed to grow naturally out of the surrounding landscape- is clearly a visionary, creating wonders way ahead of his time.

When Wright was commissioned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to create a new building to house the Solomon Guggenheim’s Museum of Non-objective Painting (early modernists art, e.g. Kandinsky, Chagall, Mondrian, Picasso) in New York City, his disappointment was no secret. He found the city to be “overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked architectural merit,” and wrote to a fellow architect, “I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum.” But they had to try, it was the client’s wishes.

Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets, the museum’s present location, was chosen over four other local sites considered. The key was the proximity to Central Park- it’s the closest to nature as one can get, away from the distractions and relief from the noise and congestion of New York City, and most importantly, it lends an inspiration to the architect.

Building the design of this out-of-the-box genius proved to be no easy task. There was a lot of struggle involving opinions coming from the different sectors- client, city officials, the public, and even the art world.

But 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings after, Frank Lloyd Wright design was realized. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opened its doors in October 21, 1959. Sadly, it was ten years after the death of Solomon Guggenheim, and six months after the death of Wright. This museum is the living testament of an architectural genius and the adventurous spirit that characterized its founders.

Today, the Guggenheim is an internationally renowned art museum and one of the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century.

Entering Wright’s unconventionally-designed museum (inverted ziggurat to him, inverted cone to me) is like entering a nautilus shell. The interior is spiral in detail, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another. A single gently sloping ramp will lead the viewers to all the levels, where self-contained galleries are located, on a leisurely pace. Along the path, it is possible to view the several levels simultaneously with the open rotunda feature of the museum.

We may know that the Guggenheim houses the collection it was founded on, the Early Modern pieces, but this museum has also become a permanent home to renowned collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and contemporary art as well.

More than exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, the museum has other programs-lectures by artists and critics, performances and film screenings. Constantly evolving, the Guggenheim Museum has become a cultural center, an educational institution, and the heart of an international network of museums.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 17, 2011.

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