Gimme Shelter! Google and Guggenheim Get Sketchy

Hey, it’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday! In honor of the “greatest American architect of all time,” who would be a

Hey, it’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday! In honor of the “greatest American architect of all time,” who would be a sprite 142 years old if he had not died in April 1959, Google and the Guggenheim are partnering up for a design competition. Starting today, June 8, they’ll accept submissions for “Design It: Shelter Competition,” which is described as “a global, online initiative that invites the public to use Google Earth and Google SketchUp to create and submit designs for virtual 3-D shelters for a location of their choice anywhere on Earth.” The contest closes on August 23 and will culminate with the Guggenheim’s 50th anniversary bash on Oct. 21; two prizes, a Juried Prize and a People’s Prize, will be awarded to the best Google artist.

Toss out the canvas! New platforms, from the iPhone (ahem, Colombo and his “Brushes” New Yorker cover) to Google’s online apps, are the hippest new tools to create a buzzed-about piece—and attract younger audiences to traditional art. The Guggenheim has been on an upgrading kick with the redesign of their Web site last year ( received the 2009 Webby Award for Best Cultural Institution Web Site) and their arrival on Twitter on June 2.

“Throughout the Guggenheim’s 50th anniversary year, one of our most important goals is to engage new and ever-broader global audiences to understand and appreciate art and architecture through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications,” Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong said in a press statement. “Our collaboration with Google is certainly providing us with a technologically exciting means to do just that.”

There’s already a Google SketchUp tutorial, available for artists to use for free, on the competiton site. And a video on the Google blog to explain how it will work.

“Google SketchUp is a free software program that enables anyone to create and share 3-D models of anything imaginable,” said Aidan Chopra, “product evangelist” for Google SketchUp. “It’s a fancy pencil. People have an easy time picking it up and making whatever comes to mind. Some of them design buildings and some just fiddle around with their furniture, but all of them are being creative—and that’s what we set out to enable more people to be able to do.”

It’s also a chance to take advantage of the quick connections made between online communities.

“The Google SketchUp community includes students, designers, architects, and artists all over the world—audiences shared by the Guggenheim,” continued Mr. Chopra. “This design competition is a way to bring these communities together online.”

Once all the shelter designs have been submitted, students of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture will select ten finalists. The public will choose a “People’s Prize” through an online poll running from Sept. 7 through Oct. 10. A board of architecture and design experts will judge the same finalists to choose the winner of the Juried Prize—a $1,000 cash reward. Good Googling!

Gimme Shelter! Google and Guggenheim Get Sketchy