To help celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Guggenheim Museum teamed up with 99% Invisible to offer visitors a guided audio experience of the museum. Even if you've never been to the Guggenheim Museum, you probably recognize it. From the outside, the building is a light gray spiral, and from the inside, the art is displayed on one long ramp that curves up towards a glass skylight in the ceiling. We’re going to take the greatness of this building as a given. What we’re going to focus on are the oddities, the accretions, the interventions that reveal a different kind of genius. Not just the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright, and his bold, original vision, but the genius of all the people that made this building function, adapt, and grow over the decades.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars For the last several months, I've been working on something with the Guggenheim Museum in New York, brand new audio tour about the history and design of a truly great work of american architecture. Even if you ve, never been the Guggenheim. You probably recognise it From the outside. The building is a light gray spiral and inside the art, is displayed on one long ramp that curves up towards the glass skylight in the ceiling. There is no museum like it and it was by one of my favorite architects. Frankly, right What you're going to hear now is the whole audio tour. If you're in New York City, Dry and listen to it inside the museum, there are signs on every floor indicating where you should stop buddy you can't make it to New York. The tour still really fun and works on its own, but but the Guggenheim with generous enough to allow me to create a different kind of audio tour. That feels, like
walking through the building with an extremely enthusiastic ineligible friend, rather than a formal architecture, professor, I hope you like it we propose an episode guide with photos on our website. It appeared at Org but I think include your eyes and imagine and still enjoy all the stories. Here's the verse type if you're in the building, start playing this in the lobby of the rotunda. Welcome to the Guggenheim Museum, I'm roman Mars, the creator and host of the design and architecture podcast. Ninety nine percent, invisible Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece made by a master of architecture. Frankly right in twenty nineteen UNESCO selected eight buildings designed by right, including the Guggenheim to be a world, heritage site, UNESCO sites are considered vital to the collective interests of humanity. Yellowstone is a heritage site
so is the Grand Canyon of the world heritage properties in America, twelve, made by God. Eight were made by Frank, Lloyd, right, when CO founder and first director of the Guggenheim Museum Hilary Benn Commission, this building, she said He wanted a temple of Spirit and right design, one for here. The director of the Guggenheim Richard Armstrong, feel now I look up into that down. I'm actually looking at a very beautiful abstraction. A rose window cathedral, I'm in awe, So will you take the genius of this building as a given its greater, but I'm, the focus on are the oddities, the accretions, the interventions that reveal a different kind of genius, not just the genius of quite right and his bold original vision.
But the genius of all the people that made this building function adapt and grow over the decades. Frankly, right was the originator of a concept called organic architecture look around and see how this entire building resembles a sea, showing you might think, all cool. That must be organic architecture, but sorry. Actually not what he meant. William frankly, raid organic, architecture was more about the metaphor of a living organism. This is actually minerals, the Guggenheim assistant, curator of architecture and additional initiatives. Actually, when he was on the site, he referred to steel, as tendons and the muscles of the building, the concrete as the fatty tissue and the waterproof paint as the skin So we're going to explore touch, and,
dance with this living organism of a building and witness the evolution. That's occurred within these curved walls. The next is by the second floor, elevators on the main ramp, frankly, rights plan was for the Guggenheim to be a top down museum, originally there's we're supposed to ride the elevator to the top of the spiral ramp and walk down. That's what the exhibitions all started, I have seen many images of old installation these from the sixties, into the seventies, where that's where the entire text was Initially, exhibitions were planned from top down starting on ramp five get out of elevator the entrance. The exhibition was right in have you any walked down to see. It but
time. Curators started programming from the bottom up, it just felt natural, also. The Guggenheim does a lot of retrospect, focusing on one artists from their early work to the late stuff, many artists over the course of their careers, their work larger in scale, and so, if you do, where you're, starting with the early work, which is small and then moving to larger work. It makes sense to start at the bottom, because the display spaces in the building get bigger. Bigger as you move up in space But if you want to be a frankly right original list and you really need to walk down from the top of the Guggenheim, you might have company as you right up the elevator, I think still. Fifty Twenty percent of people take the elevator up, that's probably because they that's how Frank Lloyd intended and they want to see it that way, and so designers and curators plan for it to be experienced both ways and, in fact, most visitors that aid
to walk up and then walked down, so it makes sense that the show should be able to read in both ways, This isn't the only big difference from how Frank, Lloyd Right envision the Guggenheim, his blueprints included plain for a second spiral ramp that would protrude out into this in terms of the rotunda it was going to twice a steep as the corkscrew really you were standing on right now. He called it the quick ramp it was supposed to make it faster to get between floors. Frank later, aid in the description said feel the path. Avenues walked on the grand rampant for quick and easy access between ramps. Take the quick but on the core group, you'd feel. Remedies, pull a little too much. The design was way too. It was more like a quick slide, so it never got built, but the quick ramp still, the final design of the museum. You'll know
the hole in the center of the rotunda. It's not a perfect circle and the rancher on right now is not a perfect spiral. There's a semicircle that juts out into the rotunda, that's called the bump out The bump out used to be part of the quick ramp. When you see then you understand that every curve actually belongs to a circle somewhere I've had a reason for being. Sadly, we missed out on the opportunity to slide away down the Guggenheim, but to stay We got as an alternative route between floors are still pretty delightful. You can find them in the hallways behind in the elevator doors they twist up the building in a triangle and add another lovely, pure form to the museum. The next up is by the third floor, elevators on the main ramp. As you walk up the ramp in the rotunda place, your hand on the parapet, The low wall separating the ramp from the vote in the center.
The first thing you notice is that its very low, if it were built today, let's be honest, good, probably be a couple inches taller. The you ll notice, is that, even though the building is composed of these pure forms like circles and spirals the top, the parapet isn't perfectly founded or finished off with a crisp right angle, its bumpy and uneven so. The reason why the parapet is kind of Only in that way is because we touch up paint true every day, when the museums not open, and that's because buildings, where So it gets dirty. You'd have to really the whole building and have a clause. For you know. I'd are now fully there's something if you were surely truly repaint the interior, and so instead we touch here and there, and for that reason everything kind of has a texture. You have an effect, building by being here and touching this railing, you ve changed it. It's changing texture
part of its evolution as an organic structure?. I guess they re here. This is the second step on the third floor, struggling Frank, Lloyd Rights, vision of a spiral museum was. An easy Tupolev right, oversaw the work, but a local. Architect named, William Short, was in charge. The project on the ground and George Cohen, Was the general contractor the three years it took to build the Guggenheim they, came to the realisation that sum of rights, ideas we're not going to be doable like the idea of making the building a self supporting spiral. If you imagine a slinky something in the way that the wire, just because it's in tension in that way as holding itself together, that's what he said earlier on.
So, instead of a self supporting spiral, they use something called weblogs. Look at the floor across from you. There was thin walls that you see that shot out from floor to ceiling. Those are actually all connected. Those web laws may hold whole building together, article walls which extend all the way up and now occupy combination of all of those together is the structural skeleton of the building. Everything else hangs off the ramp hangs off of it. The exterior while saying off. They had to solve the problem of making curving spiral. Building, no one had even imagined before much less built and they did it with gun. I'd goodnight is concrete shot out of a hose at high velocity. You spread against a mould dries real fast takes on the shape of the more it was right to
dear to use this pretty novel technology when the building was constructed. If you look closely and this Let's just right, you can see an angle, checkerboard pattern of lines that betray the form the plywood would moulds that created the shape of the outer wall, hired a sub contractors do the gun. I because they didn't think about the former being expressed the gun I form is placed on like a real angle, which is not consistent, that's just because they didn't think you would see, and so they just made their pattern work as you do Pattern is a result of the gun, I construction and, frankly right then like the fact that it was visible but Joe Colin, convince them and actually exemplified the principles of architectural honesty that, frankly, right and other modernists champion in many ways, George Color is the under sung. Hero of a Google but frankly, rights, respect, for him is clear right by the front entrance George Cohen's name is written in metal embedded.
On the exterior wall, alongside red Square that serves as Frank, Lloyd, right, signature. This the only time right ever put the General Carr tractors name on a building. For the next stop head over to the cafe off the ramp. On the third floor, look out, the window You'll see the outer facade up close there to cool. Things to know about the facade of Guggenheim. First is the color, it's very dear from when the building opened. It wasn't this It is greatly was more about Asia Yellow frankly, right called the original color buff. There really great photos of vat, almost looks more like a sand castle. It has a very different feeling than it does now to create both the use of special waterproof paint called cuckoo eight years after the bill,
opened the exterior needed to be repainted, so the museum step went to the manufacture of cocoon paint and discovered. They no longer have love. Someone original color buff was no longer on the market. The first time they re painted the building and sustainably lately later shade and over the years they used a bunch of different colors, more of a stark white and currently its grey people prison. You ve got to be wide, but it's actually grain after the building was awarded landmarks dies. The Guggenheim went through a restoration and created, and Christine Conundrum paint wise. Should they mean and stick with the like re, everyone had grown accustomed to or roll back time, and we paint the Guggenheim, the original, yellow, buff color. In the They chose light gray is the color we won associates with the museum today? The second thing to know about the facade is that it's not structural, the concrete just
hangs off the framework of the building and doesn't hold anything up its super thin in places. Concrete is less than five inches thick there. In the archives warning workers, To use nails that are too long when hang in the artwork, the nails go right through to the outside. I guess they re here. This is the second cafe. Stop. So right now, you're in the cafe which all. Standing on the third floor of a second smaller rotunda. But no it doesn't. Like a right. Originally, Frank Lloyd Right, one at all the Guggenheim staff to work in this building this space. The monitor, although nobody's entirely sure why I really couldn't find a dentist,
but frankly, rate always referred to as the monitor in all correspondence, is the really dubbed that my guess is that, because it was the administrative, building it's kind of monitoring everyone else. People used Dusk sent lamps and family photos and they sat right where you are standing, but it was a pretty cramped space and awkwardly shape. Overall almonds slash football shape, but you see as a stairwell that shape kind of repeats throughout the building. In all of this is original regional always been here a super trying to imagine this being an office space. Everything had to workers these words the officers were kind of like railroad apartments. There was no hallway. So if you had a desk at the back window, you had to walk through every else's office just to go to lunch, day the museum staff mostly work off site in downtown location.
And the monitor has become public gallery space and home to the Guggenheim CAFE and Gift shop You see that low on the corner of the world looks like a balcony or walk over there and take a look down. You'll see a gallery. That gallery is actually part of a ten story tower that's connected to the museum. You probably didn't notice the tower behind the main building when you came in, nobody does and that's kind of the point was built in nineteen. Ninety two by the architecture firm cloth May Siegel and it replaced in older tower, built by Frank, Lloyd, right son in the press with the old tower set. It was just a bit: much he pulled out a photo of interest. Listened were tried to describe satanist areas two intersecting boxes, wine tall vertical box, which elevator corps
then this Rectangular box, which is currently so it's hanging off of that thing in both of them. Have these vertical strives? examine all windows, just a pattern of hair the guidelines are over the preserve its wild too, because I feel it It's completely fallen out of everyone's memory, seriously looted on your phone or when you get home it was while it looks a bit. Like seventy cipher architecture. I kind of love it, but it actually stall attention away from the museum and the glass me single tower does such then job just looking like it was always meant to be. There. And allowing the original Frank by re building to really shine interest access backdrop, and so I think that's why that design of so great.
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if you hang a picture with slanted floor like this one, how would you do it? Would you make it straight Or would you try to hang it to match the angle of the four Franklin right designed a third option, he made bays throughout the building which slope backwards. We, can hang paintings right. It's not about a bears, a comprehensive display system. So the back wall, as at an angle approximately one hundred and five degrees which is really similar to an evil, the problem with the easel plan. Is it true, to look at paintings when their tilting away from you, that's not How artists and curators wanted it look out. The rotunda, if the exhibition on display right now has paintings you'll notice, that many of them appear to be floating in space that the Guggenheim Signature way of hanging paintings care
see the hanging mechanism is hiding behind a painting. If we were, once again, a real honour, real angle and look back you and be able to see where that hanging mechanism is in all of it is behind there, and so that's why you get that really nice shadow, and the shadow doesn't have any other hang mechanism. It's just the pieces, locomotion This. The installation team has a very hard job here. They have to figure out new plan for each work of art and for each part of the building, because the bays get larger as you go up now. Here's another thing about the rotunda. If you look up you'll see works of art. If you look across, you'll see works of art there too, down as more your surrounded by art, Nancy Spectre, is the artistic director and Jennifer and David Stockman chief curator at the Guggenheim
people can be a religious experience, it so profound to stand there with that work of art or works of art. Then, on top of that, you have the ability to look ass, the rotunda and see where you're going in where you come from. Do you have a chance to revisit from a distance? The Guggenheim is the only museum in town without a backstage area where staff can prepare new exhibits means if you come too a changeover period between exhibitions you get to see the new exhibit taken shape right before your eyes Nancy says installing art in the Guggenheim is a totally unique challenge, but it's a challenge. She loved My education has been in a round building with very strange, leaning walls and inclined ram, so Is my normal, where we spoke about the building as a catalyst and that Challenges us over and over and over again and one of those challenges,
since that Nancy has to literally walk lapse around the building to see if the placement of each work of art is just right. You're installing your constantly walking around circle. It change Every vantage point, so one has to understand that the progression The continuous ramp encourages viewers to look at each piece of art in a particular order. The oars of the art, tells a story in terms of the structure of the. Museum, it really invites sequential booking in a way that a square rectangular room doesn't They do like building story making an argument in space that, for me they worked here for so long. It's easier to do on the right switch again unfold, sequentially versus a room that base it tells you the story immediately
but you as a visitor to the Guggenheim, also have control over the story. You can choose to tee Can the art across the Rotunda Board they right in front of you. You can follow along story being told choose your own adventure and see what you discover. The next stop is by the fifth floor: elevators on the main ramp. My name Christopher George, on the director of the fabrication apartment, Richard Avery senior facilities manager. Christopher and Richard are part of the team. Installs new exhibitions in this building. They ve full sized cars an oversized cat skeletons, do filled the centre void. This unusual space. Each exhibition is beat of engineering that has to be planned perfectly but there's it's so much planning that can happen. Say: there's no. Google
rotunda that we can go to you know in practice. We make the best with the spaces available. Then, hopefully, everything comes together. Well, it's time for the actual installation Once you solve the problem of hanging a chandelier made of nine cars, you do not want to have to start from scratch the next time an artist wants to display something audacious and the rotunda. So suddenly, anchor points are still left in place. Look up their accounts, its support walls or call weblogs that hold up the whole building and converge in the skyline. If you look very carefully notice stainless steel circles all over them. Those are rigging points play his work, cables and pulleys have been attacked, over the years. Each point has a name so we actually name them. According to the artists that there initially and start for so we have rigging points that we call them leaving points for when there is the layman
tower installed. We have them for Frank, Gehry, Gary Point, it's from when we start the sets of hanging aluminum throughout the museum. There are lots of bolts and hooks that unveil old exhibitions were displayed. These are the leftovers of something amazing than happened here It's not just on the ceilings and walls the floors out into as you lock on the rents. Looked down to the Toronto floor. You'll, see a lot of dark circular, depression Then the floor, stolen level, sculptures, honest slanted floor requires a lot of forethought and power tools. Four installing pedestals reply forms or stations or even some pieces of work. They need to be affixed to the floor, but here's the thing with a slow floor, if a sculpture needs to be moved for any reason. I can't just pick up the pedestal and.
A couple inches. The angle might be wrong so yet to recall the whole pedestal and do it over again fixing it to the fore at another point: that's what the anchor points in the floor aren't as reusable from exhibition to exhibition, does Point in leaving them they're, so the Guggenheim fixes them, but fully repairing the Toronto isn't easy there. Only a few companies that know how to fix this kind of including one guy, who has worked with the Guggenheim. His name is Larry. There is good, but unfortunately, there is now retired were having I am actually train seventy museum staff so that Wilson of the skill set in hand to continue with these repairs ourselves. These Davidson Pockmarked, ghosts tiny reminders of past exhibitions. Some you, yourself and you can remember putting this holes in the form of one day.
I'll be gone, though just remember it. The final stop is by these six four elevators on the main ramp. When you reach the final resolution at the top of the spiral, ran, looked down at the derisory for you'll notice that the patterns hinges most. The flaw the ramp has repeating, circular pattern, but at this point, The pattern turns to square. I said that initially showed the boundary between public and private space, in the early days of the Guggenheim. You could not go past this line. There's some debate as to what frankly right wanted, but as best we can tell this part was now supposed to be galleries. Banks. S was now
exhibition space, which proved freed. Imagine, and so beautiful up here. Everyone loves these spaces. In the early days this space was used for storage, but here it is now open to the public. And you have a lovely opportunity to transgress and trespass into what was once forbidden territory? Do it with me? Take one step over into the squares. According to the original plans, you were Not supposed to be here now stepped back. The ghost of Franklin Right is at peace ok step over again into the forbidden zone, look at you? You urban explore appeals good. Doesn't it now sat back and keep going back and forth and dance with the Guggenheim
if there is any piece of architecture worth dancing about this, is it this tour of the Guggenheim Museum, which I called an audio guide to the imperfection Frank, Lloyd, rights, perfect masterpiece was blue, this by me, Roman, Mars, crisper, Ruby and Sofia. Classier mixing production by Sharif of Means by showing Rio, Switzerland. Everyone at the Guggenheim Museum for allow me to make this especially Caitlin, Dover and Laura Cleaner, who cooked up this whole idea Ashley Mendelson for being our guide in this guide
we are project of many one point: seven K Ale, W in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown Oakland California Ninety nine percent of visible is a member of Radio Tokyo from Pierre Excess, fiercely independent collective of the most innovative shows in all upon casting by more and Radio Tokyo TAT. I found you can find the show in joint discussions about the show on Facebook. Entreated me at Roman Mars and the show at ninety nine p, Org, run Instagram and ready to weave pictures the different you're, gonna museum, stops and all kinds of stuff, and then, p. I gotta work Radio do.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.