Getting it Wright: Exhibition, New Restaurant Reinvent the Guggenheim

Event: AIA Member Tour: Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum
Location: Guggenheim Museum, 03.10.10
Speakers: David van der Leer — Assistant Curator for Architecture and Design, Guggenheim Museum; Andre Kikoski, AIA — Principal, Andre Kikoski Architect
Organizer: AIANY


The Wright.

Andre Kikoski Architect

Re-imagining the spaces of the iconic Guggenheim Museum is no easy feat. However, recently AIA members toured an exhibition and the museum’s new restaurant space that accomplish just that. David van der Leer, assistant curator for architecture and design, led a group tour of the exhibition Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum, and architect Andre Kikoski, AIA, principal of Andre Kikoski Architect, discussed his design for The Wright, a sleek dining space that occupies the museum’s former cafeteria.

On view through 04.28.10, Contemplating the Void features renderings by more than 200 international artists, designers, and architects who were asked to imagine their own interventions for the museum’s rotunda. Although the museum has installed many artists’ interventions in the past, this exhibition displays proposals without any intention of execution, freeing the artists from legal and financial constraints. The proposals range in media from detailed digital renderings to delicate hand drawings. The curators chose not to frame the works, so it looks like an “all-star studio pin up,” according to van der Leer.

The proposals are diverse: Snøhetta’s “G-String (The Guggenheim Unraveled)” depicts the unwrapped spiral re-wrapped around the neighboring Upper East Side; Toshiko Mori, FAIA’s “Soft Landing” explores her interest in textiles with nets strung across the rotunda for visitors to climb or fall into. GROUP8 imagined a Swiss chocolate extrusion of the space in its proposal “Tasting the Void,” while Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects illustrated a giant water column shooting through the space in its work, “1000m3 of water or 2,000,000 lbs.”

Unlike the participants in Contemplating the Void, Kikoski faced many restraints for his design of The Wright, including budget, schedule, and the challenge of creating a space with longevity: the restaurant will be a permanent fixture in the museum rather than a temporary installation. The Guggenheim’s former cafeteria featured dark brown carpet and bright red walls, and visitors could see all the way through to the dishwasher from the front entrance. Kikoski’s team spent time modeling the design on the computer to correct perspectives and “bring movement into a basically square space.”

Kikoski sought to “create a space to complement the museum,” which he accomplished by developing an analogous material palette, including white Corian counters, and referencing the geometry of the iconic building with swooping arcs in the form of the bar and the layered ceiling plane. For his time, Frank Lloyd Wright used daring materials and technologies, Kikoski explained, so he approached the project as he imagined a young Wright would if he were alive today and working as a young architect.

The wall behind the bar appears to shimmer with fiber-optic walnut panels that are backlit with LEDs. Tiered banquette seating upholstered in bright blue and an art installation by artist Liam Gillick inject color into the space. Yellow, orange, red, gray, brown, and beige powder-coated horizontal aluminum bars line the walls and wrap the ceiling. They bridge the building’s distinguishable portholes, but the outlines are still visible: “I didn’t want to erase or celebrate, but leave them as memory,” Kikoski said.