REVIEWED: “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward”

On Saturday I took a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition at the Guggenheim. This fall marks the 50 year anniversary of the completion of the Guggenheim Museum.

The exhibition displayed models, drawings, and projections of this starchitect’s work both built and unbuilt from the turn of the twentieth century until the Guggenheim Museum’s completion.

The models were exquisite. For example, the Pittsburgh Point Civic Center (1947) was displayed as a silkscreened loosely drawn elevation on the wall (I think 1-1 scale), adjacent to a sectional model whose section was flush with the wall. The Pittsburgh Point Civic Center had proposed an atrium with two spherical aquarium tanks and a parking lot that revolved around the atrium.
Pittsburgh Point Civic Center
pit point civic center

The drawings revealed technical craft. First, the majority of Wright’s drawings were delineated on trace. Not bristol board. Not vellum. Not mylar. TRACE. I understand that bristol board eliminated cheating for final drawings during first year, but if Frank Lloyd Wright used trace for final drawings, why can’t we? Where the model of the Guggenheim Museum was displayed was a series of perspectival renderings of the Guggenheim. Apparently, Wright’s intentions were to make an outrageously bold statement to embarrass the up towners, especially living near the Museum Mile. There were proposals that the Guggenheim, as we know it now, to be flipped upside down, with more floors and lower ceilings, and painted the color pink. It was outrageous. Can you imagine a pink spiral ziggurat on 5th Ave.?

There was another rendering that blew me out of the water. It was a night rendering of the Pittsburgh Point Civic Center. Black paper with tempura paint. temprr

Although I was overall impressed with the exhibit, there were some details that I had criticisms about.

For example, it was unclear as to whether or not the models of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work were made by an employee of Frank Lloyd Wright or himself as opposed to a 2009 version of the model. Many of the models looked like they had been through the CNC machine or another digital fabrication machine, which was a bit disappointing considering how detailed and well crafted the models were. There was a model, that had a projection that was perfectly calibrated such that the colors highlighted the model diagrammatically. The model was most definitely CNCed because the “river” on the model had several thousand uniformed dots the size of Braille. I noticed on one label for the model, it read “Name of Project” (year of project, 2009).

diagramatic model2
diagramatic model

Another criticism I had was about the layout of the exhibit. The Guggenheim Museum was intended to be viewed by riding up the elevator and viewing the art by spiraling downward. However, Frank Lloyd Wright’s work was displayed chronologically from earliest to latest, bottom to top. The curation and exhibition design seemed to have completely thwarted the intensions of the architect of the museum, which, by the way, he happened to be displaying. On the one hand, it seemed appropriate to have the model of the Guggenheim on the top.

Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed the exhibit.

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