Drawing of an elevation of the Guggenheim Museum. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #4305.629.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of the Guggenheim Museum

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Drawing of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

My post this week is going to be about where Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum

He designed it in New York City, you silly!

No. I mean:

in which of his studios did Wright first draw the plan for the museum?

See, the Guggenheim is one of Wright’s most famous buildings, but the story of its commission and design isn’t the cinematic

           possibly apocryphal

story of Wright drawing of Fallingwater in two-and-a-half hours while the client drove from Milwaukee.

And the tale took a bit longer.

And while Wright received the commission in 1943—looong story short—it was still being built when he died in 1959.

The biz on the Gugg:

While there’s no question he designed it in a Wisconsin studio

He couldn’t go to Taliesin West in the early 1940s because of gasoline and rubber rationing,

I’ve never come across any apprentice remembering Wright first envisioning its plan, or talking about his ideas for it.

Therefore: I’ve been trying to find the exact studio where Wright first put pencil to paper. Like:

Did he do it in the Taliesin studio?

Or in the studio at Hillside?

Looking northwest in Hillside studio. Photograph by Keiran Murphy. Taken April 14, 2006.

This is a photo that I took in the Hillside drafting studio in April 2006. While there are items on the tables, I think that for the most part no one in the Taliesin Fellowship or at the School of Architecture was at that time currently in residence. Even in 2006 they usually didn’t “land” in Wisconsin until May.

Yet, when I first started in tours, I probably thought he drew it at Hillside.

After all, Hillside had his main studio there for decades as of the late 1930s.1


In 1995, former apprentice Curtis Besinger published Working With Mr. Wright: What It Was Like. That came out in ’95

Besinger wrote


by the end of December 1942 there were only eleven of us remaining at Taliesin.

Curtis Besinger, Working With Mr. Wright, 139-140.

Besinger wrote that there were less people in The Taliesin Fellowship due to World War 2.2 So then I thought maybe Wright only used the studio at the Taliesin structure.  

But then

I read Taliesin Diary by Priscilla Henken. That came out in 2012.

            She and her husband were at Taliesin in 1942-43.

In her diary on July 9, 1943, she wrote that Wright went to New York City because:

“It’s quite definite that FL [sic] has signed the contract for the Guggenheim museum and Robert Moses is showing him the sites.”

Taliesin Diary: A Year with Frank Lloyd Wright, by Priscilla Henken (W.W. Norton & Co., New York, London, 2012), 191.

So I thought again. She wrote this entry in July. So maybe they had moved to the Hillside studio for the summer?

Well, I told myself: do what you always do:


Here’s one in Taliesin Diary taken in 1942-43:

Photograph of four or five male and female apprentices practicing choir in Taliesin's drafting studio. Published in the book Taliesin Diary: A Year with Frank Lloyd Wright, by Priscilla Henken, p. 70, top.

While Fellowship members practiced choir in the space, you can see 2 drafting tables that Wright or others could use .

Further, I read from the book The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright3 by Neil Levine. On page 320 in Chapter 10: “The Guggenheim’s Logic of Inversion”, Levine wrote that, during the summer of 1943, “no drawings exist” of the Guggenheim “from this preliminary stage”.

which, okay, means I didn’t have to look at photos; but it’s still neat to see. You should get the book. Hey, don’t cry to me if you don’t see the book for yourself.

And while the Guggenheim’s building site hadn’t yet been chosen by fall 1943, archives director Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer identified an early sketch from September 1943. That’s drawing 4305.002, below:

Early sketch by Frank Lloyd Wright of gallery space for future Guggenheim Museum. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), #4305.002

Neil Levine also posted Wright’s telegram

to the person who encouraged Solomon Guggenheim to contact Wright. That was Guggenheim’s Curator, Hilla Rebay:


          Written by Wright to Rebay, December 30, 1943, Microfiche ID# G054C06.

According to Levine,

Rebay encouraged Wright to expand his building plans. This way, perhaps “they would entice Guggenheim into building….”

The Architecture Of Frank Lloyd Wright, 321.

In January 1944, Wright sent a communication to Rebay that:

[T]he antique Ziggurat has great possibilities for our building. We will see. We can use it either top side down or down side top.’ …”


“we’ll have some fun with the modern version of a Ziggurat.”4

Then, in the book,

Building With Wright: An Illustrated Memoir, Wright’s clients, Herbert and Katherine Jacobs, gave us an idea of how Wright was developing things in early 1944. Herbert Jacobs (who wrote “Building With…”) relayed how the two had driven to Taliesin in February 1944 to see the plans for their second Wright house.

Herbert Jacobs wrote in the book that as the couple waited for Wright in the Taliesin studio that day (February 13), they saw “no less than eight colored sketches which we learned later were of the proposed Guggenheim museum.”5

It seems that, in this early design process, Wright was playing around with how to design the Guggenheim. As a building that got larger near the earth (like ancient Ziggurats), or a ziggurat that is larger up top than at the bottom.

Wright proposed this idea to Hilla Rebay as he developed the design for the Guggenheim, writing again that:

We can use it either top side down or down side top.

He meant that he could use the figure of a ziggurat, like in the drawing they made below:

Drawing of the Guggenheim Museum in pink, with the radius of the museum becoming smaller as it rises. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). Unknown drawing number.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).
btw: this is not Photoshop joke on my part. This is an actual image of a real drawing of the Guggenheim. Although I don’t think the intense pink color was seriously contemplated. Although in a way, pulling out the idea that Wright might have through about a pink Gugg is like a card you can pull out of your deck. Similar to “Frank Lloyd Wright’s son designed Lincoln Logs.”

Or design the Guggenheim Museum like you see in the drawing at the top of this page: larger at the top.

Obviously the later idea worked and I used to tell people on my tours that neither men walked into the completed building.

First published July 4, 2024.
The number of the drawing at the top of this post is 4305.629. You can find it online here.


1. I know that thanks to former apprentice Kenn Lockhart and Indira Berndtson (retired administrator of historic studies, collections and exhibitions for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation). “Indira” interviewed “Kenn” on July 27, 1990. They started the interview in the Taliesin studio and Kenn explained that when he applied in 1939 (c. July 5) to be an apprentice that all of the drafting was done at Taliesin’s drafting studio. Then he said, when he started his apprenticeship

[O]n July 8, one week later, the [Hillside] drafting room floor was finished and everything was set up for drawing.

Regarding the move to the Hillside studio:

“So July 8th, 1939 was the big move from here [the Taliesin studio]. And then he used this for client interviews and so forth….”

p. 15 of the transcribed interview.

2. Some were drafted into the service; some others signed up (like Pedro Guerrero). But still others were in CO camps or jail. “CO” camps were for conscientious objectors. In fact, Besinger wasn’t there for 3 years after being put in jail in 1943. The Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently investigated Wright, trying to discern whether or not he was influencing these young men to be against the war effort. Wright biographer Meryle Secrest showed that the FBI concluded that Wright saw the two world wars as an example of British imperialism; and therefore, he wasn’t un-American: just anti-British. [Meryle Secrest. Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, New York City, 1992), 264.]

3. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996.

4. Prof. Levine quoted from the book Frank Lloyd Wright: The Guggenheim Correspondence, ed. Bruce Brooks (Press at California State University, and Southern Illinois University Press; in Fresno, California and Carbondale and Edwardsville, Illinois; 1986) for the letters from Wright to Rebay. The letter that Levine quoted from was written January 26, 1944 and appeared in Guggenheim Correspondence, 42.

5. Building With Wright: An Illustrated Memoir, by Herbert Jacobs, with Katherine Jacobs (Chronicle Books: A Prism Edition, San Francisco, 1978), 83.

Photograph in 1998 of Keiran Murphy lecturing to staff in the Hillside Theatre.

Hey Keiran Q and A

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A photograph of me taken by the Executive Director at Taliesin Preservation in 1998. I was giving a lecture on Taliesin’s history.

I talked about “Hey Keiran” in my blog post on “How I became the historian for Taliesin.”

Back then, the only way people got their weekly schedules was to pick up the printed ones at work.
Craig, at that time the head guide, thought a weekly question/answer section would remind people to pick up them up. They called it “Hey Keiran!” and printed them on the back of the schedules.
I thought it was called “Hey Keiran!” because people would ask me things all the time while I was walking through the main floor. Yet someone recently reminded me that the name was inspired by what Dan Savage wanted to call his question-and-answer feature1 at The Onion satirical newspaper.

“Hey Keiran!” is the reason why I’ve contemplated what side of the bed Wright slept on,2 if he knew Feng Shui,3 and whether or not Taliesin had outhouses.

Here are two Hey Keiran Q-and-As that I think are pretty cool. They were too short to write a whole post about, but I thought they deserved to be enjoyed by the masses.

Note that I’ve edited the Hey Keirans for clarity, etc., etc.:

Title saying "Hey Keiran!"

Another geek adventure

until your questions bathe me in the sweat of hardworking researchment (or I figure out answers to questions you’ve already asked), I’ll give you this:


we have a copy of a photograph that shows Frank Lloyd Wright and Olgivanna reading in his bedroom, in front of his bookshelves.

Melvin E. Diemer took it after FLLW moved to the room in 1936, but before he expanded the room in 1950

(I know this because the bookshelves show a slightly different configuration than what existed after he expanded the room).

So, the general date for the photo was 1936-1950.

But then

I had some time before Thanksgiving. And you know me when I have time to think about photos.

In this case, I was musing and thought,

Hey, Keiran! The photo shows books on the bookshelves – maybe you could look them up and get a better sense of the photograph’s date?

[btw, I talk to myself like this all the time. Oh, and there’s a bridge I want to sell you.]

Therefore, I took the time to look on-line for the titles of the books. I  found some of the books and, as a result, came to the conclusion that this photograph was taken sometime between 1940-1950. Yay!!!!

Here’s the gold, people:Photograph of Frank and Olgivanna Lloyd Wright in front of a bookshelf at Taliesin. Some of the books are named.

©Wisconsin Historical Society—Deimer Collection, #3976. Please don’t copy this on a large scale, but it is on their website.

What I could read is below:

The New Universe, Baker Brownell, pub. 1926,

A Storyteller’s Holiday (2 vols.), by George Moore, pub. 1928,

The People, Yes, by Carl Sandburg, pub. 1936,

After 1903—What?, by Robert Benchley, pub. 1938,

Panic, by Archibald MacLeish, pub. 1938, and

A Concise History of Gardening, by A.J. MacSelf, this ed. pub. by Garden City Pub. Co., 1940.

At the time that I wrote that Hey Keiran article, the book, After 1903—What? was in the room at Taliesin known as the Garden Room (someone took a photo of it, here).

I mentioned that in the Hey Keiran article:

I freaked out on a tour

(in a good way)

when I looked down and saw this book. Donna

(the House Steward working that day)

seemed to handle it ok. I think that is because she’s used to me coming into Taliesin and finding odd things that I get really excited about.


Here’s another Hey Keiran!

This is the question:

Q: When was the portrait of Anna Lloyd Wright put above the fireplace in Wright’s studio? Originally, Wright had an Amida Buddha painted on a 3-part screen—if I’m interpreting an old photo correctly. What happened to that? Sold? What was up there when he died?

Here’s my response:

A: Anna’s portrait was up there when Wright died. Initially, we were told that Wright put his mother’s portrait up there when it was painted.
So we thought he put it there c. 1920.


when I began looking at historic photographs, I couldn’t find evidence of that.

In fact, a couple of photographs clearly show the Amida Buddha, and those photos date from the late 20s-early 30s.

(so, before the Taliesin Fellowship started in 1932).

One of those photos is on the Wisconsin Historical Society website. That photo is below:

Photograph in Frank Lloyd Wright's studio of a model of a building design.

Photograph from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Collection: Frank Lloyd Wright Projects Photographs.

You can see two panels of the Amida Buddha screen in the background.

So, when did Anna’s portrait get up there?4

Former apprentice, the late Kenn Lockhart, answered that question in an interview with Indira Berndtson

(she is the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Administrator of Historic Studies: Collections and Exhibitions)

Indira interviewed him at Taliesin on July 27, 1990, and he talked about the painting. Lockhart, who entered the Fellowship in 1939, said in his interview that:

“I have an idea that one of his relatives had it and it came. Because I remember when it arrived. We were living here [i.e., at Taliesin] during the [second World] war.”

Here’s a photograph of Lockhart sitting in Wright’s studio, on the built-in seat by the studio’s fireplace. Priscilla Henken likely took the photograph in 1942-43:

Photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Taliesin studio with four architectural apprentices.

Photograph in Taliesin Diary: A Year with Frank Lloyd Wright, by Priscilla Henken. Page 107, bottom. Lockhart is in the middle of the photo, facing the viewer. Frank Lloyd Wright sits on the far left. The apprentices David Henken, Curtis Besinger and Ted Bower sit on the right.

Wright did not sell The Amida triptych. After he removed the triptych from that wall, he put it into storage. I know that because it doesn’t appear in other photos of Taliesin interiors while he was alive. At some point, the Taliesin Fellowship brought it down to storage at Taliesin West in Arizona.

The screen was restored in the 1990s. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation sent it up here for viewing one summer in the late 1990s, but it didn’t go where Anna’s portrait is. After that summer, the screen went back down to T-West and has been occasionally shown at the Phoenix Art Museum.

So, that’s it.

Ultimately, I wrote hundreds of “Hey Keiran” pieces. Most were only one-page long. However I did mess with font sizes and such to get them to stay on one page.

I’ll add other things when they fit here and there.

First published August 23, 2022.
This photograph was taken when I was around 30 years old. As I recall, I was answering TPI’s Executive Director (Juli Aulik) on how I was going to uncover all of Taliesin’s history. . . . Still workin’ on it.


1 Savage wanted to call it “Hey Faggot!”

2 After analyzing a couple of photos, I concluded that Wright might have slept on the left side of the bed (like the photo below),

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin bedroom, 1927-28
Published in Frank Lloyd Wright Selected Houses, v. 2: Taliesin. p. 56.

then switched to the right side of the bed (like in the photo here), which is just INSANE.

3 After rejecting the idea for years, I think he might have realized something about it. Although I still don’t think he “studied” it.

4 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Administrator of Historic Studies reminded me that I do know the answer now on when Anna’s portrait came to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Drafting Studio at Taliesin. Kenn Lockhart was correct: this did have to do with Wright’s family. The painting is by John Young Hunter, and Indira looked up correspondence Hunter had with Taliesin. The painter knew Wright’s sister, Maginel, and asked her if she was interested in the painting. Wright ended up purchasing it, and it was sent to Taliesin in 1939. [confirmation of it was sent in correspondence H053E09.]

Looking south in the Hillside Drafting Studio

Hillside Drafting Studio flooring

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Looking south in the Hillside Drafting Studio, with its flooring.
The black and white photograph on the right shows the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in San Francisco (currently a men’s clothing store).

In this post, I am diving into the flooring at the Hillside Drafting Studio on Wright’s Taliesin Estate. I wrote about Hillside here. Hillside’s Drafting Studio, added in the 1930s, is 5,000 sq feet of space (1,524 m2). The Hillside Studio became Wright’s main studio in Wisconsin after the Taliesin Fellowship completed it.

There was one real point of curiosity about the studio’s flooring, which has pinstripes. This post concentrates on that flooring.

As I wrote before in my Hillside post, the Taliesin Fellowship apprentices, in the 1930s, wrote about working on the studio. Here, in the September 5, 1937 “At Taliesin”1 article, an apprentice writes that:

“…. Two months of continual and concentrated group activity by the Fellowship should announce the fact that our principal workroom – an abstract forest in oak timber and sandstone – is in order.  Then watch our dust!”2

Uh… not yet

The Fellowship, and Wright, only started using the studio full-time in 1939.

Wait – what? Why not?

Well, the structure had been built, but it didn’t have a finished floor. You can see a photograph of the unfinished floor in a photo below. It was taken in 1937 by Ken Hedrich for the magazine, Architectural Forum. Its January 1938 edition concentrated on Wright.

Ken photographed the Taliesin estate, while his brother, Bill Hedrich, went to Pennsylvania and took the first, famous, photograph of Fallingwater (the house over the waterfall).3

While Bill photographed elsewhere, Ken photographed all over the Taliesin estate. His work included the Hillside Studio and you can see the state of it in the fall of 1937:

Looking north in the Hillside Drafting Studio
Photograph taken by Ken Hedrich of the firm Hedrich-Blessing.

1938 Architectural Forum magazine issue: January 1938, volume 68, number 1, 18.

This photograph looks north in the Hillside Drafting Studio. Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship did not yet use the studio, because the room did not have its finished flooring.

When you walk into the studio today you see a wooden, waxed flooring, that has pinstripes. These pinstripes were not painted on the floor surface. What one sees is the veneered wood on its side. It’s as if you are seeing the edge of a wafer cookie.

To illustrate the “wafer cookie” look

I’ll show a photograph of the edge of some of the flooring:

The edge of the laminated flooring at Wright's Hillside studio in Wisconsin

I took this photograph.

Wright only used this type of flooring in one other place: on the mezzanine in “Wingspread“. That’s the name of a house he designed in Wisconsin for Herbert Johnson. Here are some of my pictures from that:

I took this photograph by the grand fireplace at Wingspread. Most of the people in this photograph worked in the Taliesin tour program.

The photograph below is the flooring of the mezzanine that matches what’s at the Hillside studio.

I took this closeup of the mezzanine flooring.

I don’t know Wright’s thoughts on the flooring.


I know where it came from, when it was installed in the Hillside studio, and when Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship started studio operations in there.

That’s all because of someone else’s work.  

We know the month they moved to the Hillside Drafting Studio because of Kenneth B. Lockhart (1914-1994). He arrived in the Taliesin Fellowship in 1939. The Administrator of Historic Studies of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation interviewed Lockhart several times. In their May 5, 1988 interview, “Kenn” [sic] said that he arrived as an apprentice right after Wright and the Fellowship moved to the Hillside studio in July, 1939.

Where the flooring comes from:

That flooring caused curiosity for years. Where did it come from? And Herbert Johnson’s name floated around in the tour program in relation to that flooring. Did Johnson give the flooring to Wright? Was the flooring first planned for Wingspread? Was the flooring “overdraft” from Wingspread?

The answer to questions one and three, by the way, is NO

Yet, the question on how Wright got the flooring still had to be answered. And it was, by the Administrator of Historic Studies. In 1992, Indira tracked down its history. She started her task by asking former architectural Wright apprentice, Edgar Tafel.

Tafel had worked on the Johnson Wax World Headquarters, also commissioned by Herbert Johnson.

This is the same Edgar Tafel who wrote Apprentice to Genius.

Tafel told Indira that he thought of a connection between the Evans Products Co. and Frank Lloyd Wright. With that in mind, she went looking in Wright’s correspondence.  

Correspondence between Wright and Evans Products Co.

There are 8 letters between that business and Wright (or his secretary, Gene Masselink).

The first letter (E030C06) was written on March 15, 1940. Their records indicate that they shipped flooring to Wright on November 28, 1938, but hadn’t yet been paid (the bill was $400.00).

Wright replied (E03D01) on March 22, 1940. He wrote that he appreciated their patience regarding the “laminated flooring in our draughting [sic] room.”

And he wrote that it had been difficult getting paid by clients. Yet, the flooring has been doing “good work for you – as well as for us” as at least a hundred people go through the buildings during the summer and have admired the “beauty and durability of the floor.”

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a record that Wright ever paid the Evans Products Co.

One of the last letters from the Evans Product Co. was written on September 26, 1941. This is #E033E05. The author (apparently a secretary), began by noting how so many things had changed since that day they shipped the flooring to Wright on November 28, 1938.

They emphasized how Europe (then at war) had changed very much since that day. Then, they ended the letter noting that “there will always be an England” but (I’m paraphrasing here) they hoped that there would not always be a $400 outstanding debt from Frank Lloyd Wright to the Evans Products Co.!

Once more

I found this information in 2009 while working at Wright’s archives (then at Taliesin West in Arizona). I had spent months working on the history of Hillside with architectural historian, Anne Biebel (the principal of Cornerstone Preservation). And I finally answered where that flooring came from; which Indira had discovered it 17 years before!

Published October 8, 2021
I took the photograph at the top of this page on August 26, 2009.

1 “At Taliesin” was the name of weekly articles published by Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship in the 1930s. They were found, transcribed and edited by Randolph C. Henning. He published them in a book in the early 1990s. I recommended the book here and wrote about it in my post, “Books by Apprentices

2 Randolph C. Henning, ed. and with commentary. At Taliesin: Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship, 1934-1937 (Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, Illinois, 1991), 273.

3 Not that you’ve never heard of Fallingwater, but it’s a big world out there on the World Wide Web. So, what the hell!