New York City has been called "the greatest city in the world" numerous times by its own people and visitors to the city. New York is civilization's greatest world within a city. It gives the overpowering impression of being a magnet and mirror for all of humanity and all that humanity does. For a city so young, New York is home to number of architectural classics. Two of these masterpieces of architecture are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. Both continue the metaphor of New York being a world within a world and possess the latent fusion of form and function, one dependent on the other.
The Metropolitan Museum is the epitome of neo-Classical style while the Guggenheim is a modernist powerhouse. Each museum serves the same purpose: displaying humanity's greatest achievements. By comparing and contrasting their history, location, facade and interior, I will investigate how they arrive at this goal in contrasting styles Location of a building is significant, often giving an insight into the edifice's function. The Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum is located on Fifth Avenue between 88 th and 89 th streets (picture 1). It was commissioned by Solomon Guggenheim in 1943. Guggenheim chose Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building to house Guggenheim's four-year-old Museum of non objective painting. Wright was reluctant on New York being chosen as the city to house the museum but he finally decided on its current location.
Its proximity to Central Park was a vital factor in his decision - the park offers a respite to the hustle and bustle of the city and gets as close to nature as possible in the City (picture 2). Like Robie House and Falling Water, the museum is a product of its environment and finds its inspiration from nature. As is stated on the official website, the Guggenheim Museum is an "embodiment of Wright's attempts to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture." People visit the museum as much for its architecture as its art; it is an icon of modern architecture and designed specifically to showcase and complement modern art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by wealthy American businessmen and artists of the time with the sole purpose to create a museum bringing art and education from around the world to the citizens of America. The original central pavilion was designed by Richard Hunt, with the newer Lehman, Sackler, American, Rockefeller, Wallace and Krav is wing's designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates. Located on Fifth Avenue and 83 rd street (just inside Central Park), it is a living encyclopedia of world art (picture 12).
Every culture from every part of the world, from past to present is represented and is in fact the largest collection of art work in the entire Western Hemisphere. Let us now take a look at the impression each building gives the viewer. The Met and the Guggenheim possess two of the most famous museum facade's in the world. Upon first glance at the Guggenheim Museum, one is both impressed and intrigued by its design (pictures 1-4).
It is an organic form that derives its source from Central Park located just opposite. The best impression of the structure is obtained from just across the street (picture 1). The attention to detail is evident everywhere - the circular pattern of the sidewalk outside the museum, the porthole-like windows on its south side (picture 4), and the smoothness of the hand plastered concrete. The main component on the west facade (facing Fifth Ave) is represented by an upward spiraling helix (pictures 1-3). Horizontal lines are stressed throughout the exterior, with the museum being longer than it is tall.
There are very few corners, with smoothness and blending of form the focus. The museum gives an impression of stacked shapes with its long horizontal base, the viewing room capped by a steel structure on the north facade, the spiraling helix and the rectangular core. Like his other constructions, Wright makes use of cantilever architecture where the corners are free. As is seen in Robie House, the Museum seems to take the overall shape of a ship or locomotive - hallmarks of the industrial revolution.
The south facade slightly juts out from the main structure with 'porthole' windows cleverly placed at the bottom. These windows serve to enhance the steam ship analogy that is characteristic of Wright's architecture. The core of the building emanates from the central pillar that is seen just atop the spiraling structure. Like Robie House, this gives support to the overall structure (top of pictures 1, 2).
The Metropolitan Museum is a colossus (relative to museums) and upon first inspection of the Fifth Avenue facade, the viewer is immediately struck by its awesome size (pictures 12, 15). As aforementioned the Museum houses the largest collection of art in the western hemisphere and is built of limestone. The neo-Classical style hails back to the great civilizations of Greece and Rome. The area surrounding the entrance is the main component of the facade. The steps leading up to the entrance is reminiscent of the Parthenon and gives the building a sense of grandeur (picture 15). This facade has three grand arches defined by pairs of Corinthian columns.
There is a cornice directly above the capitals. At the uppermost section of the entablature there is another cornice that outlines the roof of the entire building (picture 16). The main component of the facade is flanked by the west wing and east wing. The eastern section is characterized by large dome shaped windows interrupted in between engaged Corinthian columns (picture 13). Above the columns is another cornice that surrounds the length of the building. There is a stepped in section that is perhaps designed to hold a sculpture.
The south facade is modernist and contrasts the classical style of the rest of the museum (picture 18). It is composed of glass with a pyramidal dome in the central section. Each facade of the Met conveys a sense of symmetry and order, in contrast to the Guggenheim Museum which is a fusion of different forms. The interior of both the Met and Guggenheim continue the theme of contrasting styles. The Guggenheim Museum is a work of art itself and is as much a sculpture as it is architecture. Reinforced concrete is used to create a soaring spiral that swells as it rises, culminating in an open window rooftop.
The viewer enters the museum through the central section of the facade and arrives at the ground floor (picture 6). The entrance blends in with the surrounding sidewalk and is difficult to perceive at first glance. Once inside, one sees the ramps of the building spiraling upwards with the artwork displayed within each ramp (picture 5). Light streams down from the glassed rooftop bathing the interior in sunlight giving the museum a warm ambience (picture 8, 9, 11). Wright designed the museum so that the art-goer could take the elevator on the left side of the ground floor to the top ramp and gradually descend around an open court (picture 7). This gives the viewer the option to skip levels and finally, at the end of the exhibition, find himself on the ground floor, near the exit.
By doing this, the viewer is made to experience the entire building, from the top ramp, to the bottom and perceive the overall effect of the museum as a whole. One of the consequences of this multi-ramp, open design is that the viewer can witness artwork on multiple levels from one spot (picture 7). This is a unique attribute of the Guggenheim that is not featured in other museums. However, a drawback to this is that walls of the interior are angled, making it sometimes difficult to display conventionally shaped paintings. By using this style, Wright conveys a very modernist sense to a building designed to display modern art. The Met takes an almost completely opposite stance in performing its function.
The entrance to the Met is grand and inviting. Whereas the Guggenheim's entrance is almost imperceptible with the sidewalk, the Met features nine ceremonial elevated staircases on which stand Corinthian columns and grand arches (picture 15). As you enter the building through the steps on the Fifth Avenue facade, you arrive at the Great Hall, one of the landmark rooms in New York, comparable to Grand Central Station (pictures 19-23). The Great Hall is a huge, open room with high domed ceilings, continuing the classical style (in particular, Romanesque) of the exterior.
Ionic columns flank the Great Hall on all four sides (picture 22). Above the columns there is a cornice, above which is a balcony on the second floor. There are three directions in which the viewer can access the displays, north, east, and west. If one continues straight (from the entrance), there is a large grand staircase leading directly up to the second floor. Surrounding this staircase is a set of parallel columns (picture 21).
Just above the start of the staircase is a grand statue of Perseus with the Head of Medusa. Unlike the Guggenheim museum, the Met offers a more conventional method to view art. The art-goer walks through a number of interlocking rooms with paintings on the sides and sculptures generally in the central area of the rooms. There is an impression of class, symmetry and grandeur given by the Great Hall, viewing rooms and the architecture of the Met. The Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of New York are both masterpieces of architecture that communicate their form and function in contrasting styles. The Met gives the viewer a sense of grandeur and hails back to classical styles and forms while the Guggenheim Museum intrigues and appeals to the aesthetic side of the viewer.
Both Museum's are products of their environment and accomplish the aesthetic effect that the art works inside them possess. If the Met is considered graceful, the Guggenheim can be characterized as simply beautiful. Both are priceless elements of the New York City architectural landscape.