Modern architecture takes the art outside the building. It does not merely present a facade, it actually makes the approach to the building an aesthetic experience. Furthermore, to an unprecedented degree, the additions of curves and irregular angles and surfaces make stronger statements both outside and inside galleries and museums than ever before in history. Simply put, the visitor is artistically and experientially challenged before they have even entered the building. The oldest building in this survey is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. It is an organic modernist building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, completed in 1959. It's exterior artistic features immediately challenge anyone approaching. It is a three-dimensional curve that lies on a cone, designed so that its angle to a plane perpendicular to the axis is constant. It contains almost no right angles, no straight lines and curves abound. It was revolutionary compared to steel, class, and symmetry of modernism and compared to historical museums such as the original Louvre. It challenges the visitor the same way the non-representative art in the collection inside challenges the viewer. The art and the architecture are symbiotic. The Guggenheim Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry almost forty years later extends this theme even further. It invokes the designs of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi and does not even possess the mathematical organizing principle of a helix. It is a collection of seemingly random curves that, again, defy traditional architecture and are sheathed in titanium, a new building material. It challenges the visitor before they have even entered the building. The architecture clearly states that this is an art museum, and compliments the collection: “Assembled over the past decade, the Guggenheim Bilbao’s collection of art spans from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. Concentrated on post-war painting and sculpture in America and Europe.” (Guggenheim Bilbao)
Guggenheim Bilbao. Retrieved from http://www.guggenheim.org/bilbao.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Retrieved from http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york.
The Louvre. Retrieved from http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en.
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Retrieved from http://www.rom.on.ca/.
Tate Modern. Retrieved from http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/.
De Botton, Alain. (March 26, 2007). “Architecture and Modernism”. California Literary Review. 48. Retrieved from http://calitreview.com/48.
“Sir Giles Gilbert Scott”. Design Museum. Retrieved from http://designmuseum.org/design/giles-gilbert-scott.
Rustow, Stephen L. (1990) “Transparent Contradictions: Pei's Pyramide at the Louvre”. Paper given at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians Boston, 29 March, 1990. Retrieved from http://www.museoplan.com/doc/pei.pdf.
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