Milwaukee Museum of Art architect Santiago Calatrava returned to the city on Wednesday that helped expand his career internationally – and saw a lakefront that has transformed since the museum opened over 20 years ago.
His return was marked by a proclamation by the mayor of Friday, September 16, as a day in honor of Calatrava. It will include a day of free admission to the museum.
He also saw Calatrava reflect on the changes made to the area near the museum in recent years.
“It’s beautiful, very well done,” Calatrava said. “The museum is an anchor.”
Calatrava designed the museum’s Quadracci Pavilion – the nautical-inspired addition that created a new landmark in Milwaukee.
“It helped redefine Milwaukee,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said.
County manager David Crowley said: “It inspired us.”
The pavilion, with its cathedral-like Windhover Hall, its prow jutting out to Lake Michigan and its movable wings that serve as a sunshade, known as Burke Brise Soleil, has captured the world’s attention on the museum and the city.
“It raised the stature of Milwaukee and our broader community,” said Marcelle Polednik, director of the Donna and Donald Baumgartner Museum.
New developments near the art museum
And, since the opening of the annex in the fall of 2001, several new developments have sprung up near the museum.
Just south, the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum opened in 2006 at 500 N. Harbor Drive – with a design that pays homage to the Quadracci Pavilion.
To the southwest of the museum, an underutilized facility of Milwaukee County’s transit system was demolished to make way for The Couture, a 44-story apartment tower at 909 E. Michigan St. It has was proposed in 2012, with construction finally beginning last year.
Just west of The Couture is the 18-story 833 East office building, 833 E. Michigan St., which opened in 2016 and is anchored by law firm Godfrey & Kahn.
Additionally, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s 32-story tower and commons opened in 2017 near East Wisconsin and North Prospect Avenues. And Maier Festival Park has undergone a series of renovations in recent years, including the upgraded American Family Insurance Amphitheater which opened in 2021.
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Meanwhile, other new developments could occur near the edge of the lake.
Improvements to the Hoan Bridge and portions of I-794 from 2013 to 2016 included the reconfiguration of ramps near North Lincoln Memorial Drive.
The removed ramps opened up 2.66 acres south of East Clybourn Street for new development. This state-owned site is marketed by the Colliers/Wisconsin commercial real estate brokerage firm.
The I-794 remake is gaining momentum
Additionally, there is an emerging campaign to tear down portions of I-794 west of the Hoan and replace them with a surface boulevard. This would open up additional land between downtown and the historic Third Ward for new construction.
For Calatrava, whose visit on Wednesday marked the end of the museum’s annual celebration of the addition’s 20th anniversary, these changes show the power of art and design.
The Quadracci Pavilion has “more open, in my opinion, Wisconsin Avenue and Michigan (Street), the city to the lake,” Calatrava said.
“I mean, after 20 years, it’s good to see more things happening,” he said.
The art museum project also helped strengthen Calatrava’s name around the world.
“When Calatrava was selected to design a new addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1994, he was still largely unknown in this part of the world,” wrote Mary Louise Schumacher, then art and architecture critic for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in a 2011 column.
“The Milwaukee Art Museum would be his big breakthrough, his opportunity to soar. Completed ten years ago, it was more than his American debut, it was his entry into a class of famous architects,” Schumacher wrote. .
The Quadracci Pavilion “quickly captured worldwide attention and a torrent of accolades. It was named ‘Design of the Year’ by Time magazine and a ‘Wonder of the World’ by Condé Nast Traveler,” she wrote.
Calatrava, a 71-year-old Spaniard, hailed the United States as a welcoming nation to others, including him and his wife, Robertina, who have lived here for several years.
Speaking to an audience in the museum’s Lubar auditorium, he praised members of the museum’s board of trustees for their vision and work on the Quadracci Pavilion, as well as Milwaukee architect David Kahler, of Kahler Slater, whom he called the co-architect of the project.
He was also moved by the mayor’s proclamation.
“I’m speechless,” Calatrava said. “It’s something really unexpected.”