Discussion surrounding Wright’s innovative design for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has most often focused on its spiral. But, had the architect been able to realize his initial vision, we might have had something more startling to talk about.
Wright wrote of his plans for the project in January 1944: “exterior: red-marble and long-slim pottery red bricks.” Hilla Rebay, the art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim at the time, quickly quashed this in a 1945 letter by saying: “Red is a color which displeases S. R. G. as much as it does me.” She recommended yellow or green marble instead. Wright, who was usually uncompromising, did not push the matter further, but he designed a new scheme with an exterior made of white concrete and polished marble gravel. When the building finally opened in October 1959, Wright had already passed away in April, and the color had been changed from his specification of “PV020 Buff” to a shade of cream and very soft yellow.
Red—more specifically, a shade called “Cherokee red”—was Wright’s favorite color and carried great symbolic value. In an article he wrote for Architectural Forum in 1938, he quoted plant physiologist Kliment Arkadevich Timiriazev, who said that “the color red is invincible. It is the color not only of blood—it is the color of creation.” He used the color in many of his residential projects (at times despite his client’s wishes).