Museum Architecture on Steroids

December 16, 2015



On an overcast day in mid-October I decided to make a return visit to the dramatic Guggenheim Museum, located on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. It’s been years since I’ve visited this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed edifice. Thinking strategically, I purposely picked a Wednesday afternoon because I believed that would be a good time to go. Meaning: no crowds, no distractions.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City

I was dead wrong. There were tour buses, food vendors, museum lovers standing outside and even more people on the circular seven-level ramp that coils up from the main floor. I quickly decided to head down one floor to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s plans for his groundbreaking Usonia houses.

Wright was always ahead of his time and his design for this modest middle-class dwelling with no basement and no attic is a spare, yet elegant precursor to the modern ranch house. In 1953, a model of the house was erected on the site where the Guggenheim would ultimately be erected.

Wright spent the last 16 years of his life working on his design for the Guggenheim. He died at 91 – six months before the museum opened in 1959. In spite of all the controversy at the time, it is now seen as one of New York’s finest buildings.


If I had the wherewithal I would fly over to Spain for two days just to see this incredible museum designed by Frank Gehry. Opened in 1997, it is located on the industrial riverfront in the Basque city of Bilbao in northern Spain.

This astounding structure is made of limestone, glass and sheets of titanium, a lustrous, high-strength metal. Bilbao was once known for its shipbuilding and this is reflected in the museum’s design – a clipper ship under full sail.

The Guggenheim Museum located in the Basque city of Bilbao in northern Spain

Inside, the museum features a 150-foot-high atrium, from which glass elevators and metal walkways lead to 19 exhibition spaces, including a gallery 426 feet long and 98 feet wide. Many illustrious names of 20th century art are featured: Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso to name a few.


On second thought, maybe I’ll throw caution to the wind and take out a second mortgage. Then, I can spend two days in Spain plus two in France – and know that I’ve seen it all.

Frank Gehry has outdone himself with this creation. Or, as he says, “I have never designed anything exactly like this before.” That’s quite a statement coming from an 85-year-old architect. Of course, he was a youthful 72 when this project began.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton museum, designed by American architect Frank Gehry has 12 glass sails that billow around the main building

Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France and head of the LVMH luxury goods empire has financed this endeavor. The museum opened on October 27, 2015 and is situated on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, a public park. It has 12 glass sails that billow around the museum’s main building. Inside there are 11 galleries for exhibits and a permanent collection of art. Right now, this is a privately owned museum but, in 50 years, it will be donated to the city of Paris.

Summing up, all three of these museums are otherworldly and fantastical creations that are drawing more and more people to view great art. That says it all.


Christmas is right around the corner. Have you finished shopping? Have you even started? Never fear, ADEA is here. We’ll give you all the help you need for those last-minute purchases. That’s a promise.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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