Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Correspondence

Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Correspondence

Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Correspondence

Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Correspondence


A narrative in correspondence from the "Guggenheim Letters," a remarkable archive that, in its entirety, would make a stack equal in height to the model of the Guggenheim Frank Lloyd Wright made in 1946. Here is a very personal and detailed account of the creative struggle required to build the extraordinary Guggenheim Museum.

It is a seventeen-year saga which saw the firing of the first curator, the death of the donor, and the creation of six complete sets of plans and 749 drawings. Ironically, Wright died six months before its completion.

From its opening in October 1959, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has been recognized as Frank Lloyd Wright's crowning achievement. Pfeiffer demonstrates that the story of its construction is arresting drama as well. The Guggenheim, while periodically modified and adapted to meet its changing needs, continues to give expression to Wright's artistic vision and is a testament to the spirit of both Wright and Guggenheim.


When you look across at the Guggenheim from the West side of Fifth Avenue, the gently rising curves of its facade suggest serenity. When you enter the Guggenheim itself, the shower of clear and unimpeded space that surrounds you suggests “the peace that passeth understanding.” In contrast to its stark and angled neighboring buildings, their rooms prefabricated boxes, the Guggenheim provides an oasis, something necessary to that spot, something as welcome as it seems inevitable.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Far from simply rising from the ground, the way it looks as if it did, the Guggenheim is the story of a struggle that lasted seventeen years. In the course of it the curator who commissioned the building was fired, the donor died, a host of lesser protagonists came and went, and the architect who created it never lived to see it in its finished form. No one but Frank Lloyd Wright could have conceived it. No one but Frank Lloyd Wright would have had the will, the character, the heroic determination to see the project through. Although it remains his crowning achievement and the most famous of his long line of masterpieces, the saga of the Guggenheim is quintessential drama. It brings to mind the Oresteia and the Book of Job.

In the files of the archives at Taliesin West are vast numbers of “Guggenheim letters,” most of them lengthy, many of them repetitive— because the battles won had then to be fought over and over—all of them touched to some degree with the struggle that waged for seventeen years. Collectively they would stack as high as the model Frank Lloyd Wright . . .

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