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FROM WRIGHT TO GWATHMEY SIEGEL: The case of movement in the Guggenheim Museum

Authors: Ana Rolim, Luiz Amorim and Mariana Castro

Paper presented and published in the proceedings of the 11th Space Syntax Symposium, Lisbon, 2017.

When Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City (1943-59), he prioritized both defining and activating space simultaneously, with movement influencing its configuration. This paper evaluates how an extension by Gwathmey Siegel and Associate Architects in 1992 altered Wright's original concept for the building.

Museums' spatial layouts influence visitor movement patterns, affecting awareness and encounters. Wright aimed to influence visitor movement, create differentiated social spaces within galleries, and emphasize the role of space and artwork in the visitor experience.

Through configuration analysis of floor plans and field observations, including tracking pedestrian flows and visitor counts, we compared the original layout with the later addition. While Wright's design emphasized the intelligibility of the space, interpersonal interaction was weaker away from the atrium, with frequent concave isovists indicating segregation.

Contrary to Wright's intention, most visitors ascended via the ramp rather than the elevator, resulting in more interaction with artwork during ascent. This challenges previous studies suggesting impediments to exploration, as visitors frequently stopped to take photos, even across different ramp levels.

In the Guggenheim Frank Lloyd Wright simultaneously sets and activates space through movement.

Goal and backdrop of research

Paper's abstract

Paper's abstract

Sample of analysis of results

Sample of paper's conclusion

Sample of paper's conclusion and some of the references used

Tracking visitors in the museum

Isovists established in structural spaces of the building

Convex maps of museum at its opening in 1959 (upper part) and after the 1990's renovation by Gwathmey Siegel (lower part)

Justified graphs of museum layouts in 1959 and in 1992 show that the transformation of adjacent spaces into galleries and the annex added later on created two different spatial experiences: The highly controlled progressive gallery in the ramp and the relatively connected adjacent galleries offering more route options

Axial maps of museum at its opening in 1959 (upper part) and after the 1990's renovation by Gwathmey Siegel (lower part)

Snapshots taken from upper level at fixed time intervals juxtaposed to integrated most integrated axial lines shows coincidental patterns of movements and clusters of visitors

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