Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Aye Simon Reading Room

New York, New York

1977 - 1978

Frank Lloyd Wright had originally designated a small, curved room on the second floor of the Guggenheim Museum, along the windowless Fifth Avenue edge of the building underneath the spiraling rotunda, as a repository for his drawings and models of the museum. Over the years it was used as an employees lunch room and a storage area. In 1978 the museum decided to have the space converted into a reading room.

In effecting the transformation, three original round skylights were taken as primary organizational cues. Each of the skylights focuses on a major activity area: reception, reading table, and built-in banquette. All of the furniture – including the banquette, bookshelves, tables, chairs – is of curvilinear, light-finished oak, and was especially designed for the space.

The portal to the almond-shaped room, which is entered from the second level of the spiral ramp, is in the shape of a giant keyhole or moon gate. This round shape helps to mask the transition from sloping to flat floor plane and to minimize the distortion that the canted wall surface would have accentuated in a more rectilinear form. It also echoes the shape of the elevator, which is directly opposite across the ramp. Beyond this thick-walled, ceremonial doorway, a semicircular vestibule restates Wright’s circular theme and further mediates the change in floor levels, modulating and deflecting one’s entry into the room.

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