The Milwaukee Art Museum originally took up two floors of space in a 1957 building designed by Eero Saarinen as a war memorial. Then in 1975 a larger space was created for the museum by David Kahler, who connected the building to the city with a concrete bridge. To further accommodate its needs for more space, a grander entrance and a strong image for the city, the museum sought out architects to design a new addition and settled on Santiago Calatrava in 1994. The impressive project is now called the Quadracci Pavilion, named after Betty and Harry Quadracci who kicked off the capital campaign with a $10 million donation.
Calatrava took inspiration from the nearby lake, sailboats and soaring birds to create his masterpiece, which was built next to the existing Kahler building and connects to Wisconsin Avenue via a cable-stay footbridge. The white steel and concrete building is reminiscent of a large ship about to set sail on the water and adds 13,200 square meters to the existing 14,900 square meters of exhibition space.
Photos © Timothy Hursley
Photo © Timothy Hursley
The museum’s most notable feature is its soaring wing-like sun screen set atop the reception hall. Constructed out of steel, 36 fins form the Burke Brise Soleil, which has a wingspan of 217 feet and opens and closes twice a day. During the day, the screen opens up to shade the glass entrance hall from the sun and at night, the screen closes down like a bird folding his wings to sleep. The wingspan is comparable to that of a Boeing 747-400; it has two ultrasonic wind sensors that automatically close the wings if the wind speed reaches 23 mph or greater.
The design for the amazing shaded pavilion and sun screen was conceived back in 1994 and at the time of construction was considered unprecedented. Calatrava’s design was considered challenging and required a significant amount of custom work. As part of the 10th Anniversary, the museum will honor Calatrava and his design for the museum with a special exhibition starting in September. In February a special exhibition on Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture will commence the celebrations.
Images Courtesy of Milwaukee Museum of Art