Detail, Guggenheim Museum facade under renovation. Photograph by Chris Kasabach, 2006.
One of the great artifacts of American architecture is being renovated in New York City. Scaffolds are up, and paint and surface stucco are being removed. And what do we find?
That some years ago, some poor sign installer went to put the first letter of the name of the museum up on the wall, and someone screamed, "No, you idiot! Lower! Much Lower! Get it down close to the edge. And a quarter-inch to the right."
That the building is the Guggenheim Museum, and that the architect was Frank Lloyd Wright, makes this photographic detail especially interesting.Detail, Guggenheim Museum facade under renovation. Photograph by Chris Kasabach, 2006.
Tying letterforms to the soffit edge emphasizing the horizontal line was clearly Wright's intention early on, as evident in his drawings. I could be wrong, but I don't think he ever floated text. Wright tended to use text in an "active" way to emphasize building lines and datums; or packed in a square panel, expressing a planning module. (Mies van der Rohe would float signage, but generally preferred to have none.)Guggenheim Museum, perspective drawing by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1951.
I'm not sure that it was Frank Lloyd Wright who art directed this correction. It could have happened years later. (Perhaps an architectural historian or typographer among our audience can shed some light on this.)
As they say, though, design is in the details. These are the kinds of little decisions, one at a time, hundreds cumulatively, that make a great building great.