In 2021, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum approached Snøhetta to design a planting project for their sixth-floor ramp. Snøhetta has transformed the space by building a relationship between the planters, the artwork, and the building itself, creating layers within the open gallery, and inviting visitors to meander, take meaningful pauses, and gather with others within the green enclosures.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Urban Garden Center
Guggenheim Exhibitions Design Team
Since its opening day, the iconic museum has had a physical presence within the cultural sphere of New York City. Its location, on the East side of Central Park, was chosen for its closeness to nature and the relief that the park provided from the congestion of city life. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building was created with landscape as a source of inspiration. The structure of the museum is reflective of Wright’s work to incorporate organic form into architecture with galleries divided like citrus fruit membranes in addition to open spaces for viewers to glance different perspectives of the building. The spiral ramp connects these spaces and acts as an internal topography for the visitor to traverse.
The typical journey through the Guggenheim is sculpted by the towering ramps and natural curves. Snøhetta sought to redirect and shift this movement with the introduction of the planters upon entering the floor. Taking geometry cues from the building, the placement of the planters seeks to shape the user’s journey through spots of altered perspective and new viewpoints of the gallery. A variety of movement is encouraged with the greenery to guide you.
With Wright’s masterpiece in mind, Snøhetta’s team was inspired to reinterpret the traditional elements of landscape design. The landscape exhibits several palettes of indoor plants, some wide and low, intermixed with towering vegetation, allowing the composition to achieve a welcoming texture. At the base of the planters, dry moss was placed to increase greenery within the space in addition to emphasizing vegetation density at key moments within the design.
Conceived during the pandemic as a way to invite people back into public spaces, the design was crafted in a hands-on process. Testing with crude models, potted plants were moved around the space to achieve the most welcoming arrangement. The planters are maintained by Urban Garden Center.
Each planter acts as a host, drawing the viewer into a more meditative portion of the museum, and disrupting the typical flow along the ramp, creating the effect of eddies and islands along the visitor journey. The planters thereby become less standalone objects and more of an overlay system that enhances the experience of the gallery. Utilizing a variety of plant species that showcases a diversity in textures, the tactile and perceptual quality of the plants act as a palate cleanser to the stimulation of the city and busy museum.
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