c. 1504

Staircase of the Belvedere Palace


c. 1504 Staircase of the Belvedere Palace, Vatican
1924-25 Gordon Strong Automobile Objective
1929-32 Entrance Hall of the Vatican Museum
1943-59 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1948-50 V.C. Morris Gift Shop

2000.01.17
Saarinen, Kahn and the Use of History
The other place in Rome that opened my eyes was the spiral entry ramp of the Vatican Museum. How come no one ever acknowledges that that spiral ramp and the skylight above it is exactly what Frank Lloyd Wright copied (or should I be kind and say reenacted?) when he did the Guggenheim Museum on 5th Avenue? Wright's Guggenheim is certainly creative, but it is not all that original.
What I like best so far about investigating reenactment in architecture, it the search for origins, that which is being reenacted, because it's in the origins that true originality resides. Kahn himself said he wished he could write 'Volume 0'. I'm not going to say that I too want to write 'Volume 0', but I do have real faith in its existence.

2000.01.20
Wright and historical method
Paul, thanks for a more thoughtful reply re: the Vatican ramp and Wright's Guggenheim. I'll only pick on one part of your reply, when you say:
why would Wright--who maintained that he was the consummate creative genius, He who Let There Be Architecture--all else being deficient--why would the self-proclaimed artistic loner risk his precarious (as that stage) reputation in history by copying a ramp at the Vatican Museum? It doesn't make sense to me.
I don't think the workings of logic or sense making necessarily help here, and, ironically, it doesn't seem all the logical for one to admit Wright's charletanism, his PR tactics, his spin-doctoring, and the skepticism of his after-the-fact accounts, and then to draw a rigid line by saying, but Wright would never, ever copy and/or find design inspiration in a European architectural precedent.
I have nothing against Wright or his architecture. In fact, I feel very lucky to live not far from his Beth Shalom synagogue, a real masterpiece. But I don't like to see personal opinion or even accepted scholarship get in the way of understanding creativity and the creative process (as opposed to the 'fabrication' of creative genius). In this particular case of the Vatican and the Guggenheim I see a very interesting example of creative mimesis, and even some very creative reenactment. I'll explain below.
As I walked up the Vatican ramp that first (and so far only) time in 1977, I remember thinking, "wow, this is just like the Guggenheim." I then wondered if Wright had ever been in the same space. Such a connection had unorthodox connotations (as this thread of posts attests), but alas, one will probably never really know. Only when I looked up at the skylight and instantly recognized the obvious similarity between the Vatican skylight and the Guggenheim skylight was it then that I became convinced of the extreme likelihood that Wright very much knew of the Vatican space (be it either by having been there himself, or by drawings and/or photographs).
I will now get very 'Freudian' here, and say that just maybe the Guggenheims, like Freud, had this strange love/hate thing vis--vis Rome/the Vatican. After all it was Freud, a Jew, who reenacted the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit by instituting the ego, id, and super-ego. So, one could then imagine the Guggenheims saying, "Mr. Wright, we want you to build for us a Jewish Vatican museum!" And lo and behold, Wright, creative genius that he was, designed the foremost Jewish Vatican Museum in existence, with no one ever being the wiser--quite an accomplishment, (or did it all just happen subconsciously?). [I better stop before I start writing a reenactment novel here.]
Anyway, I think there is a lot more to learn about how 'design' happens by looking at the potential relationship between the Vatican entry ramp and the New York Guggenheim, especially in noting how Wright's design deviates from the Vatican model, then there is to dismiss the relationship because of its contrariness to received (but not necessarily fully disclosing) opinion.

2001.08.01
ideas
Guggenheim reenacting the Vatican? - the next reenactionary architecturism.


2001.08.01
Guggenheim reenacts the Vatican
See how the Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York reenacts Giuseppe Momo's 1932 entrance hall with double-helix ramps of the Vatican Museum.


2001.08.01 18:03
Re: vatican museum
I believe you are correct about Wright plagiarizing Momo, in that plagiarize means: to steal or pass off as one's own (the ideas or words of another); use (a created production) without crediting the source; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. But the buildings themselves do not plagiarize each other, rather they manifest reenactment. For example, if Wright had acknowledged Momo's design, then Wright would no longer be guilty of plagiarism, but the Guggenheim as a building wouldn't actually change because of the acknowledgment.


2001.08.14
[Scully-Guggenheim]
I just checked the Scully Guggenheim reference, and what's interesting is that Stefan Grundmann, who wrote on the Momo design in The Architecture of Rome, pretty much 'reenacts' exactly what Scully wrote.


2003.02.22 09:14
apostasy is only half the story
Interesting how the Guggenheim circular rotunda with spiral ramp is a reenactment of the Vatican Museum's entrance rotunda with double helix ramps.
Yes, Wright's design (1943-59) essentially reenacts Momo's design (1929-32). Did Wright covertly sense, or did the Guggenheims overtly express a desire for a Jewish Vatican Museum?
By the way, Momo's spiral rotunda reenacts Bernini's earlier Vatican spiral ramp, the one that allowed the pope to travel on horseback to and from the Belvedre Court high up in the Papal Palace (which is now for the most part the Vatican Museum).

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