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UNDER THE GUGGENHEIM'S SKIN

NEWSAGENDA

This startling image reveals the huge number of cracks and fissures currently riddling the Fifth Avenue elevation of Frank Lloyd Wright's 1959 Guggenheim Museum in New York. With the painstaking survey of the building complete, the museum is now entering the next phase of restoration works - patching up the cracks.

New York-based architect and preservation specialist Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA) was appointed to lead the restoration in 2004. WASA associate Angel Ayon says the - rst task was to peel back the building's cracked layer of paint to determine if the cracks were mirrored in the building's iconic concrete contours. Ayon says: 'It was the first time since 1959 that the building had been without a coating. We had to take a snapshot of the concrete to see if cracks matched the failure in the paintwork.' On the whole, the two sets of cracks married up, but the problem, says Ayon, 'was that we had a whole bunch of cracks, but not all of them were moving the same way'.

Monica Ramirez-Montagut, assistant curator of architecture and design at the Guggenheim, says determining the nature of the movement was the team's biggest headache. 'We used radar, ultrasound, lasers, crack monitors, tilt monitors, rotation monitors and potentiometers. . . It was the most in-depth survey ever undertaken on a building, ' she says.

Building work on the Guggenheim began in 1956 and several different types of concrete were used in its construction. WASA is currently treating replicas of samples taken from the building with various filling compounds, and subjecting them to 'accelerated weathering' in an effort to determine which compound to use.

Work to repair the cracks will begin this spring, with completion expected in the late autumn.

Ayon says that handling Wright's original drawings and letters has confirmed his admiration for the architect, who died in 1959.

But, Ayon says, the longevity of the repaired museum will ultimately 'come down to a man, on a scaffold, with a trowel'.

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