Left your heart: Xanadu

I hate the Guggenheim. Never liked the exterior across from the park. Thought it was one of the most annoying gallery spaces ever invented. But who cares? I still love and admire Wright, your mouth drops looking at his stuff one hundred years later.

So with much luck, I was able to see the an exploratory version done in San Francisco, and I had forgotten all about it since it was before the blog.

The people from Xanadu, were kind, and let a boob like me come in and photograph (so my guess is, you too!). Go see this historic space on Maiden Lane, the place where the sailors made their midnight visits. It is something else! The V. C. Morris Gift Shop supposedly was designed after the Guggenheim, but gave Wright a chance to see the ramp in action.

But here is only one story, the proportion in the Guggenheim never looked great, too high. Here it is wonderful and intimate, the structure retains that wonderful horizontal orientation, so loved by Wright.

From the exterior brick, to the interior which Wright is so precise with those ivory walls which do so much with the light. This considering the front and sides are totally encased from almost any outside light. The muted light inside I assume is both natural and electrical.

Speaking again of the brickwork, Wright tends to detail beautifully the use of that light ochre brick, which copies yellow stoneware. Wright was pretty precise about his use of brick. In Chicago at the Robie House, I believe, there was an extension built to the right outside wall as you faced the building. Someone associated with the building said they were very proud that the brick were made with the same clay in the same factory. What they failed to see, that my adventures in pottery have taught me, the original bricks did not match, I believe because a blue mason stain had been brushed on the brick face, giving it a little more of a patina. Look what Wright does here by recessing the pointing (directly above), which removes flatness from the brick face creating more depth. Wright works against the reality of a totally flat surface.

The curves catch light in some nice ways and he does the cutouts with thickness, which the shadows give thickness like heavily embossed paper. The lighting is softened and the forms lack a certain sharpness, one sees often on exterior architecture.

Catch the curve on the brass of the banister and how it echoes the the curve of the ramp (left). The woodwork neat and soft. Look how the ramp (right) rises up against the office area, which recedes back further into shadow. I wonder what the original covering of the floors were?

That famous planter.


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