Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim-style car showroom

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Years ago when I worked in NYC, I used to walk north on Park Avenue (between 42nd and 57th Streets) every day to get to work, not realizing I was walking past a unique architectural landmark: The Hoffman Auto Showroom, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed auto showroom at 430 Park Avenue. It was significant for three reasons: one, it was the architect’s first permanent work in the city; two, it was his first constructed automotive design; and three, it was one of his few interior-only projects.

I’m referring to it in the past tense, because – believe it or not – it was demolished by the owners of the building in 2013! Reportedly, as soon as the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy suggested the possibility of a landmark hearing for the showroom, the building’s owner obtained a demolition permit and took immediate action. I guess the value of a raw commercial space on Park Avenue was greater than the prestige of maintaining a historical interior.

Hoffman Auto Showroom on Park Avenue by Frank Lloyd Wright

In the pictures above, we’ve got the showroom as it appeared in 1955 (at top); Frank Lloyd Wright’s conceptual sketch for the space (bottom left); and the space as a Mercedes dealership as seen in 2012 (bottom right). The fascinating aspect to this is the circular ramp; this space was built in advance of the Guggenheim, so in a way it was a mini-Guggenheim before New Yorkers would ever experience that museum. While the idea of a Wright-designed circular ramp dates back to the 1920s, when Wright was commissioned to build a mountain resort which included a spiraling automobile ramp, that commission was never realized. The ramp idea therefore had been percolating for a while until Wright had the opportunity to have it built with this project for the European auto importer Max Hoffman in 1954.

You can read more about the original showroom and its demise in this newspaper article from 2013.

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