The captivating tale of the plans and personalities behind one of New York City’s most radical and recognizable buildings
Considered the crowning achievement of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan is often called iconic. But it is in fact iconoclastic, standing in stark contrast to the surrounding metropolis and setting a new standard for the postwar art museum. Commissioned to design the building in 1943 by the museum’s founding curator, Baroness Hilla von Rebay, Wright established residence in the Plaza Hotel in order to oversee the project. Over the next 17 years, Wright continuously clashed with his clients over the cost and the design, a conflict that extended to the city of New York and its cultural establishment.
Against all odds, Wright held fast to his radical design concept of an inverted ziggurat and spiraling ramp, built with a continuous beam—a shape recalling the form of an hourglass. Construction was only completed in 1959, six months after Wright’s death. The building’s initial critical response ultimately gave way to near-universal admiration, as it came to be seen as an architectural masterpiece. This essential text, offering a behind-the-scenes story of the Guggenheim along with a careful reading of its architecture, is beautifully illustrated with more than 150 images, including plans, drawings, and rare photographs of the building under construction.
“[Dal Co] sets out again to trace the circumstances that enabled the realization of a building so resistant to the orthodoxy hardening around it. Drawing from correspondence, theoretical discussions, technical analyses, and substantial previous scholarship, he illustrates the charged climate surrounding the genesis of the Guggenheim, condensing decades into a narrative of overlapping events to arrive at new interpretations of Wright’s masterpiece.”—Kelly Chan, Metropolis
“Dal Co . . . [makes] a strong case for the Guggenheim as a masterpiece. No architect less visionary than Wright—or less dedicated to his own vision—could have accomplished so much.”— Stanley Abercrombie Interior Design
"An absorbing history and technical analysis behind the design of the landmark structure."—Suzanne Stephens, Architectural Record
“Dal Co (Istituto Universitario di Architettura Venezia, Italy; director, Casabella, architecture magazine) offers a new look at this celebrated structure, charting the give-and-take between architect and patrons, the necessary design alterations, and the technical challenges—of the building itself and for the proper display of the art—involved with realizing Wright’s ideas.”—William Rodner, Choice
“Delving deep into the epic process of the Guggenheim Museum’s construction, Francesco Dal Co marvelously walks the psychological tightrope between client, architect, the city of New York and all the people—professional and otherwise—who expressed their opinions publicly.”—Frank Gehry
“Icon and iconoclast hold equally for subject and author in this compelling account of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum. Juxtaposing a rich trove of archival sources with new trajectories of interpretation, Francesco Dal Co argues convincingly for the building’s “timelessness,” all the while reminding us that Wright’s now beloved building was once at the heart of seminal controversies.”—Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University
“Francesco Dal Co’s rich history of the Guggenheim Museum is a revelation—an elegant and beautifully written book as definitive as Wright’s enigmatic masterpiece.”—Tod Williams, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
“Francesco Dal Co has written the most eloquent and insightful synopsis of New York’s Guggenheim Museum to date.”—Anthony Alofsin, FAIA, author of Wright in New York (forthcoming)
"This lucid story shows how Wright sustained his revolutionary concept for the Guggenheim Museum amidst many difficulties, ultimately transforming the modern art museum."—Joseph M. Siry, Wesleyan University