Contemplating the Void: Art Trap
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum receives about 900,000 visitors annually, ranging from tourists to art connoisseurs. The building is always packed with people in perpetual motion activated by Frank Lloyd Wright's radical vision of a museum -- a quarter-mile-long ramp spiraling around an iconic void. While museums were traditionally intended as contemplative spaces, the Guggenheim has become, in a sense, a victim of its own success due to an over-saturation of human movement in a singular space. Our proposal aims to accomplish the seemingly incompatible: to restore a museum environment conducive to experiencing art and to maximize and heighten other experiences brought about by the iconic status of the museum itself.

We started out by challenging the singularity of the space by separating it into two components with radically different spatial qualities and purposes. The introduction of a third element will interrupt the visual link between the central void and the ramp. This new element will block the view of the void and of the movement around the ramp, protecting the ramp environment from the visual noise of the rotunda and focusing attention toward the periphery walls and, as a result, the artwork.

What we propose programmatically with our separation is to trap, i.e., to force a pause. This programmatic component was not considered by Wright, who envisioned a space defined by tireless motion. Due to its popularity, the combination of movement and density has created a shortage of space both physical and psychological. The shielding element is composed of 180 saddle-like seats along the entire ramp for pausing and viewing the rotunda. These seats protrude into the void with access ladders arranged in between the floor and the ceiling over the guardrails. Each of the 90 access ladders holds two cantilevering seats, which are angled gradually as they ascend to allow a view of the central area at ground level that functions almost like a stage -- as though the rotunda were a new hybrid of opera house and arena. The 180 protrusions over the void are draped with a single, soft and translucent membrane that functions as a safety net.
The pop-out pods, each approximately 60 cm deep, contain seats and are positioned throughout this membrane. Each pod has five openings for the head and limbs, which make the membrane much like a garment that can be worn collectively by 180 people. This creates a tactile intimacy to a collective experience that is otherwise primarily visual.

Celestial Bodies
This separation will provide two radically different scenes. One is of 180 spectators who have become spectacles themselves, as if they were performing as a part of a living Baroque ceiling sculpture. They are, in fact, resting and/or observing the view across and below, suspended in the void, reminiscent of some heavenly scene. The other is the posterior view of the 180: still, resting, motionless, limbless bodies strung sequentially along the ramp, as though they were works of art, like the art displayed on the opposite walls.

Art Trap

Design Period:

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Concept (Exhibition)

Solomon R. Guggelheim Museum,
New York, NY, USA

Building Scope:
19.5m (DIA) x 50m (H)

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Mass Studies
Minsuk Cho, Kwonwoong Lim, Chaeri Kim, Betty Bora Kim, Sojung Lee, Jisoo Kim

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
(Contemplating the Void:
The 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum)