Nature, above all else, was Wright’s most inspirational force. He advised students to “study nature,
stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” Ask
students to gather a collection of natural forms.
Seashells, leaves, flowers, and seedpods are just
a few possibilities. Have them choose an object
from the collection and develop a drawing and/or
model for a building based on that form. When
the designs are completed, have them present
their ideas to the class.
Frank Lloyd Wright was interested in the relationship between buildings and their surrounding
environments. He called this “organic architecture.” Have students search through magazines
or on the Internet and select an image of a type
of terrain that will be the site for their building design. It can be on a tropical beach, in a
crowded city, near a snow-capped mountain, or in
a densely wooded area. Students should design a
home that is in harmony with the site they have
chosen and should be able to describe how their
building reflects Wright’s principle of organic
One of Wright’s guiding principles was “form
follows function,” meaning that the purpose of
a building should be the starting point for its
design. Discuss the concept of form and function
as they relate to your school. What is the function of a classroom or a school building? Does
your school’s design suit its function? Conduct
an analysis of an aspect or area of your school’s
architecture (the cafeteria, gymnasium, library,
etc.). Through architectural drawings and/or models, propose solutions to make your school more
functional by improving its design.
SchoolArts August/September 2007
Sharon Vatsky, is the associate director of education at
the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
building ever to receive such recognition. In
preparation for its upcoming fiftieth anniversary in 2009, the museum is currently
undergoing a major restoration including the
removal of some twelve layers of paint that
has revealed the building’s concrete surface.
This process is allowing for close analysis and
detailed monitoring of cracks in the building’s
façade that will be used by the restoration
team to formulate an appropriate repair
method and to ensure the building’s lasting
health so that new generations of visitors can
continue to experience one of the twentieth
century’s great works of architecture.
Frank Lloyd Wright. VHS. Ken Burns and Lynn
Frankel, Stephen Robert, editor. Frank Lloyd
Wright’s Guggenheim Museum: An Architectural Appreciation. New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2002.
Stipe, Margo and Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank
Lloyd Wright: The Interactive Portfolio.
Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2004.
Wright made some 700 sketches and six separate sets of working drawings for the building. His plan went against the conventional
approach to museum design, which led visitors
through a series of interconnected rooms and
forced them to retrace their steps when exiting. Instead, Wright’s design whisked people
to the top of the building via elevator and let
them proceed downward along a spiral ramp
enjoying the art on display until returning to
the entrance. He conceived of the museum as
an airy, open place curling around a great central space topped by a large skylight.
Initially, some people, especially artists,
criticized Wright for creating a museum environment that might overpower the art inside.
“On the contrary,” he wrote, “it was to make
the building and the painting an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony such as never
existed in the World of Art before.”
The tall white building, known as the
Tower building, was added to the Guggenheim
in 1992, designed by Gwathmey Siegel and
Associates. This addition houses four additional exhibition galleries as well as two upper
floors devoted to offices.
Wright made no secret of his disenchantment with Guggenheim’s choice of New York
City for his museum: “I can think of several
more desirable places in the world to build his
great museum,” Wright wrote in 1949, “but
we will have to try New York.” To Wright, the
city was overbuilt, overpopulated, and lacked
architectural merit. After considering several
locations, a site across from Central Park—as
close to nature as one gets in New York City—
In August 1990, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was designated as an official