Shot of Guggenheim museum by Kevin Dooley. Obtained via Flickr
Guggenheim Museum. Photo by Kevin Dooley

Charles Gazzola of New Rochelle, N.Y., recently sent this letter to REMODELING regarding our article about a contractor's challenges installing an elevator in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed synagogue.

Dear Sir: Your Punch List article "In a Wright State" surely hit home. In the late '70s, I took a position as director of building operations at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City [photo]. Twenty years of maintenance and repair neglect were quite evident from my first day. The frustration of those who went before me became evident.

As a Wright project, making improvements or repairs were problematic. I had to travel to Arizona to try to get a compromise on contract clauses to repair and replace hardware [that] was manufactured in England by a company that closed after the museum was completed. Only HOPE hardware was to be used and the attic stock was depleted by the time I came on the scene.

Though over the years dollars were available for new acquisition, dollars for maintenance and repairs were a necessary evil.

Until major exhibits were being denied due to the fact temperature and humidity levels couldn't be maintained and the atrium dome leaked even on dry days, did some dollars flow. The best attribute was the museum's lighting level--superior to most museums.

To replace a 10-inch-diameter, 12-foot air handling unit shaft required a scaffold outside the building--penetrating the circular cocoon and 14-inch concrete wall--both costly and unsafe and [requiring] rigging a new shaft into the building with a crane. We could buy a work of art for that money vs. [having] no exhibits or damaging art work because of the maintenance problem.

Needless to say, my three years trying to maintain a Wright project were exhausting, [with] contract restraints [and] exuberant costs due to design restraints. No thought was ever considered for future repairs. It's a WRIGHT PROJECT—they last forever. Though world-renowned, they were and are future nightmares.

Fortunately, 15 years after I left [there was] a major grant and numerous fundraisers. The museum was totally renovated, after years of legal agreements with Taliesin Architecture.

Genius is sometimes flawed. Reality is passed over for ego and design. No thought for tomorrow.

Yours truly,
Charles Gazzola