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Parsons School of Design MFA Lighting Design program theses1994 (PC020404.04) ➔ Evolution of a Museum Lighting Design: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


Related people/organizations

Laura Antonow (designer)
Pamela Mayers (thesis advisor)
Renee Cooley (thesis advisor)
Robert Prouse (thesis advisor)


December 1994


Exhibition lighting is a major element in the design of museum exhibitions. Lighting is a functional element in that it allows the art to be viewed in more detail and for a longer duration of each day; however, it is also an interpretive element in the design of an exhibition. Understanding the necessary criteria for architectural lighting design for the museum is only the first step in producing successful exhibition lighting design. The implementation of a lighting sustem is the final challenge. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has unique obstacles and challenges when it comes to exhibition lighting design. The museum has undergone a series of challenges since its opening in October of 1959, both physically and philosophically. The evolution of the lighting system, the recent major renovation and expansion, and the implementation of the current lighting system within the context of several exhibitions will be discussed and critiqued.

Chapter 2 gives the reader a brief overview of the development of collecting and of museums as both institution and building form. In Chapter 3, background on the collection, architecture and arts program of the Solomon R. Guggenheim is provided to give the reader appropriate context for the developments to follow. The evolution of the architectural lighting design of the museum is addressed in Chapter 4. This text covers the original design, modifications, the major renovation and restoration of the original Frank Lloyd Wright building and the design of the Gwathmey Siegel Tower Annex addition. Chapter 5 is a concise description of exhibition lighting design objectives to set the stage for the discussion and analysis of the actual exhibition lighting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum which follows in Chapter 6. This chapter, which comprises the majority of the text, covers six exhibitions that have taken place in various galleries of the Frank Lloyd Wright building and the Gwathmey Siegel Tower Annex addition since the renovation and expansion in 1992. These particular exhibitions were selected to illustrate the diversity of art, exhibition design and installation techniques that comprise the exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Chapter 7 is the conclusion, which summarizes the development of the lighting system and the ongoing concerns.



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