To celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Quadracci Pavilion, an addition designed by Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava, the Milwaukee Art Museum recently announced an exhibition and program series for 2011 that focuses on architecture. The Quadracci Pavilion—whose moving parts are unprecedented in U.S. architecture—is seen as being instrumental in revitalizing the waterfront in Milwaukee. It has allowed for acclaimed exhibitions and more than doubled Museum attendance.
The 2011 program will present three exhibitions: Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century (February 12–May 15, 2011), The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City (June 11–September 11, 2011), and Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum (September 8, 2011–January 1, 2012). In addition, the Museum will feature symposiums and panel discussions on architecture and special events with visiting architects.
Calatrava has said that buildings by Wisconsin’s native son Frank Lloyd Wright inspired his addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Overlooking Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s white concrete, 142,050 square foot Quadracci Pavilion is set apart on the waterfront by its movable sunscreen, which lifts like wings over the Museum’s soaring reception hall. The sunscreen unfolds when the Museum opens each morning and folds back at night. The signature wings, known as the Burke Brise Soleil, form a movable sunscreen with a 217′ wingspan. The brise soleil is made up of 72 steel fins, ranging in length from 26′ to 105′. The entire structure weighs 90 tons. It takes 3.5 minutes for the wings to open or close. Sensors on the fins continually monitor wind speed and direction; whenever winds exceed 23 mph for more than three seconds, the wings close automatically.
A suspension pedestrian bridge connects the city to the Museum, and the interior cathedral-like structure has a vaulted 90′ high glass ceiling.
“Museums across the country bring immense value to their communities,” said American Association of Museums president Ford W. Bell. “The Milwaukee Art Museum, with its spectacular addition, against the backdrop of Lake Michigan, has created one of our country’s great cultural icons. Not only has its new home served to introduce its collection to nearly four million visitors over the past decade, it has also brought substantive, tangible rewards to the city‘s economy, culture and image.”
In 1994, the Museum’s search committee chose Calatrava from a field of 55 architects. A $10 million then-anonymous gift from Betty and Harry Quadracci kicked off a capital campaign. Flying to Milwaukee 40 times over the course of designing and building the Museum addition, Calatrava’s “design evolved into a very challenging project—full of curves requiring painstaking custom work and features that had never before been made for a building,” wrote Cheryl Kent in the book “Santiago Calatrava: Milwaukee Art Museum”, published by Rizzoli in 2005.
The building incorporates both cutting edge technology and old world craftsmanship. The hand-built structure was largely created by pouring concrete into one-of-a-kind wooden forms. The Quadracci Pavilion has attracted numerous accolades, including Time magazine naming it the best new design project of the year in 2001.
Today, the Milwaukee Art Museum comprises three buildings designed by three legendary architects: Eero Saarinen, David Kahler, and Calatrava.