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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

New York, NY
  • Photo credit: Tony Hisgett / Flickr Creative Commons.

After chronic cyclical cracking and movement were discovered on the exterior walls of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fifth Avenue museum, Silman was commissioned to perform an assessment of the structural condition of the original 1959 portion of the building.

This assessment and preservation project was Silman’s second collaboration on a Frank Lloyd Wright project with preservation architect Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA), the first being Fallingwater. The Guggenheim project benefited greatly from the lessons learned on Fallingwater: lessons about how to investigate and interpret Wright, how to push the boundaries of technology, and how to balance needed repairs with respect for historic materials. Starting with archival research, WASA and Silman pored over drawings, photographs, letters, books looking for clues about the construction.

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The team developed a monitoring plan that required installing over 60 electronic monitors on the complex structure to better understand how the building was moving. Silman also oversaw laser scanning to document the building’s unusual geometry, non-destructive testing, and material testing to determine the building’s construction, and development of a finite element model of the building’s main rotunda.

The team developed a monitoring plan that required installing over 60 electronic monitors on the complex structure to better understand how the building was moving. Silman also oversaw laser scanning to document the building’s unusual geometry, non-destructive testing, and material testing to determine the building’s construction, and development of a finite element model of the building’s main rotunda.

Once the source of the cracking was identified, the design team shifting to the complex challenge of developing solutions that made the building structurally safe while preserving its architecture.

The team decided to install viscous dampers and a concealed system of carbon fiber reinforcing on the interior surface of the walls to address the discontinuous reinforcing that had been the source of the cyclical cracking. Silman provided construction administration services and completed a comprehensive restoration of the museum’s exterior.

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