The Milwaukee Art Museum is located right on the edge of Lake Michigan.

The museum buildings themselves are works of art, with two of the world's most famous architects designing different sections.

After World War II, Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen was commissioned to create an arts complex on the Lake Michigan shore, with a museum, performing arts center, and veterans’ memorial.  After he died in 1950, his son Eero Saarinen (who also designed the famous St. Louis Arch) took over the project.  The building’s design was later praised by Time magazine as “one of the country’s finest examples of modern architecture put to work for civic purposes.”  Years later, in planning for the Museum’s centennial birthday, another major expansion was proposed and accepted.  In 1994, based upon his international vision and skill as an engineer and architect, Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava was chosen to be the designer to carry the museum into the next millennium.

The Quadracci Pavilion, the first Calatrava-designed building to be completed in the United States, opened in 2001 to rave reviews.  From the photo below, you can see why.

It's probably not a coincidence that the lower section is designed in the shape of a ship...

What really makes this building a engineering masterpiece is the brise soleil which means sun breaker in French.  It's an architectural term refering to sun-shading techniques.  Here two wings, made up of 72 steel fins, span 217 feet at their widest point (imagine a 90-ton 747 jumbo jet)...
raise and lower depending on the time of day and the wind and weather conditions.  The "wings" also have two ultrasonic wind sensors which automatically close the wings if the wind speed reaches 23 mph or greater.

Here is a time-lapsed video showing how the wings raise and lower...

Inside the pavilion the glass-enclosed Windhover Hall, onto which the "wings" of the brise soleil rest, reminds me of a modern gothic cathedral complete with flying buttresses, a 90-foot vaulted ceiling and a nave shaped like a prow that extends into Lake Michigan.

Two arched promenades extend off of Windhover Hall...

The Baumgartner Galleria and the Schroeder Galleria are situated parallel to each other with an auditorium, museum store and galleries between the two promenades.  The Baumgartner Galleria faces east and provides views of Lake Michigan; the Schroeder Galleria faces west and looks out onto the Cudahy Gardens...

When the Quadracci Pavilion was built, the outside grounds were also redesigned.  The diagonally-divided squares of grass are themselves divided by 10-foot high hedgerows.  Straight down the middle of the grass squares is a long fountain with a solid 4-foot high water stream.  At each end are circular pools with fountains spraying as high as 35 feet in the air.

The gardens are named after the philanthropist who made them possible. The garden's geometric shapes fit perfectly with the design of the Quadracci Pavilion.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection includes nearly 25,000 works from antiquity to the present.  In my next post, I'll show you some of my favorites.

Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Phone: 414.224.3200
Fax: 414.271.7588

Email: mam@mam.org

For directions: click here.
  • Admission fee is $15.00 for adults
  • Admission fee is $12.00 for students, seniors and military.
  • Featured exhibitions are included in admission price.
  • Closed Mondays.
  • Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-5:00
  • Open Thursday until 8:00.

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