Construction has begun on the latest addition to Milwaukee's lakefront skyline, a sleek curving tower from Pickard Chilton. Gilbane Building Co. and C.G. Schmidt broke ground in August on the new 32-story headquarters of insurance giant Northwestern Mutual. A 1.1 million square foot complex spread over several buildings and a landscaped courtyard, the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons connects the firm's historic headquarters building to a new tower that will be among Milwaukee's tallest. The whole project, which is developed by Hines, is expected to wrap up in 2017. The new construction work follows demolition of a small existing building on East Mason Street. Northwestern Mutual says the new space will accommodate 1,900 more jobs within the firm. “This project will have a positive impact on both the Milwaukee skyline and the community, and we’re excited to see that now begin to take shape,” said Jon Pickard, principal of Pickard Chilton, in a statement. The design calls out to Santiago Calatrava's celebrated art museum across the street and, according to firm leadership, aims for "sophistication." By the time it's built, the new downtown campus could be just one of many substantial renovations to Milwaukee's Lake Michigan shoreline. Despite controversy surrounding its design and architectural authorship, expansions to the art museum are underway, as are plans to build tall downtown, which have stirred debate over lakefront park space in the city.
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Obama library round-up: Woodlawn, Lakeside, Bronzeville and more vying for nation's 14th presidential library
Speculation over the future site of President Barack Obama’s presidential library has picked up as a slew of Chicago sites—as well as some in New York, Hawaii, and even Kenya—made the June deadline for proposals. Ultimately the decision is up to the President and the board tasked with developing what will be the nation’s 14th presidential library, but dozens of groups are attempting to tug at that group's ears. (Even I used AN's June editorial page to consider the library's urban impact.) Here’s a round-up of some of the Chicago proposals made public so far. 63rd Street New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio released its plan for the library in January, proposing a campus stretched out along three blocks of 63rd Street in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. They’re “highly conceptual” designs, as are most floated so far, but the plan calls for a campus centered around a ring-shaped building and extending several blocks. The development would make use of dozens of vacant lots in a struggling neighborhood adjacent to the University of Chicago. Bronzeville There’s a concerted effort to bring Obama’s library to Bronzeville, the South Side neighborhood and “black metropolis” vying to become a national heritage area. One prominent site there is the area once home to the Michael Reese Hospital. Combined with parking lots on the other side of South Lake Shore Drive, the site would total 90 acres of lakefront property. It’s been targeted for other large developments, including a casino, a data center and housing for Olympic athletes during Chicago’s failed 2016 bid. A few years ago SOM led a team of designers and developers tasked with sizing up the site for redevelopment, and you can read their plans here. HOK recently floated a plan for redevelopment of the Michael Reese site, including a rendering (at top) of the proposed library. Lakeside McCaffery Interests and U.S. Steel teamed up to rehabilitate that industrial giant’s nearly 600-acre lake infill site in the neighborhood of South Chicago. It’s the largest undeveloped site in the city. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet first reported last week that McCaffery threw his hat in the ring for Obama's library. Renderings from SOM, Lakeside’s lead design firm, show a heavy walkway that twists elegantly upward around a glass box, jutting over Lake Michigan that appears here as if it were the world’s largest reflecting pool. Chicago State University Down the road from Lakeside, Chicago State University is also a potential site. It's situated in Roseland, where Obama worked as a community organizer. For the Huffington Post, Hermene Hartman argued CSU is the best place for the library, because it would have the greatest neighborhood impact. University of Chicago The U of C called the library "an historic opportunity for our community," and—to no one's surprise—submitted a proposal to bring Obama's legacy back to where he taught law. They set up a website for the bid, but no images or details are publicly available at this time. University of Illinois Chicago U of I is among the institutions of higher education vying for the library, and it has proposed three plans on the West Side: a 23-acre site in North Lawndale; an “academic” option at UIC-Halsted; and a “medical” option at the Illinois Medical District, which is also home to another long-vacant white elephant—the Cook County Hospital building. McCormick Place As reported by Ted Cox for DNAinfo Chicago, Ward Miller, president of Preservation Chicago, thinks the library could revitalize the underused Lakeside Center East Building at McCormick Place, the massive convention center on Chicago’s near South Side. Miller previously proposed that the building be considered for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art.
Party boats are common in Lake Michigan off the shores of Chicago’s more well to do neighborhoods. But local entrepreneur Beau D’Arcy wants to corner that market with Breakwater Chicago—a floating club and leisure destination anchored in the city’s downtown harbor year-round. The 33-year-old engineer told the Chicago Tribune he’s hoping to create the city’s “next Bean,” referencing Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate sculpture. To launch the project, which will cost $23 million total, D’Arcy is seeking Kickstarter donations in the amount of $30,000—one dollar for every square foot of Breakwater Chicago’s proposed plan. He hopes to take the vessel on its maiden voyage, as it were, by July 4, 2015. SPACE Architects + Planners designed the floating attraction, which would employ a large dome to shield the “tropical pool environment” during winter. Programming includes three restaurants, a bar/event space, a large swimming pool, a spa, and retail space. Breakwater would drop anchor about a mile off Navy Pier or a bit farther south in the Chicago Harbor during summer months, and be towed into shore during the winter. Private boat-owners could dock off Breakwater, while water taxis would ferry visitors without their own vessels, for a fee of about $20. The team behind Breakwater said they’ll comply with all local, state, and federal laws regarding navigable vessels on Lake Michigan, but regulatory hurdles are no afterthought for the project. “At the completion of Detailed Design, scheduled for this summer, our team should have construction drawings submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard for final review and to shipyards for final bids,” reads the project’s Kickstarter. “Once a shipyard is chosen, construction will begin so that the vessel can be delivered to Chicago late in the spring of 2015.”
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] The Milwaukee Art Museum revamp's previous design and current iteration. (Courtesy HGA Architects & Engineers) The Milwaukee Art Museum’s long-planned expansion and renovation has become somewhat of a saga. Plans for a new addition with an entrance along Lake Michigan were announced in 2012, but hit a snag when HGA Architects and Engineers’ Jim Shields walked off the job in February. In April Urban Milwaukee first broke news that Shields, somewhat of a local design celebrity, had left the project amid quibbling over the design. That spurred conversation around town, with Journal-Sentinel critic Mary Louise Schumacher suggesting the museum consider not building an addition at all. In a surprise twist, Shields returned to the project, having apparently reconciled a dispute over the design direction. The project’s future, however, is still uncertain. As Schumacher pointed out in a column Friday, the new design replaces the 1975 Kahler addition’s eastern face with a glassy atrium. That building originally featured elegantly recessed windows that were later pushed flush with the façade, contributing to the eastern entrance’s deactivation. The museum would eventually close it completely after opening the Santiago Calatrava addition in 2001. The dark zinc or copper patina HGA is considering for the addition’s exterior would recall some of the original design’s drama, while engaging the lakefront with a glassy atrium in a way that Kahler’s building could not. But Schumacher wonders if the museum might be able to accomplish its goals without adding to the mishmash of architectural styles that sparked this continuing saga. Repairs to Eero Saarinen’s adjacent War Memorial building are also part of the plan. The total project will cost at least $25 million. The County of Milwaukee will contribute $10 million toward repairs, and the museum has already raised $14 million. While the architectural legacies of Shields, Kahler, Calatrava and Saarinen are all at stake to varying degrees, not to mention the city’s lakefront urban context, Milwaukeeans have plenty to consider.
The Milwaukee Art Museum announced in 2012 that it would add a new entrance as part of a $15 million project to renovate the museum’s permanent collection galleries. Two years later, with $13 million raised and public support secured, the project is ready to move ahead. But the original lead designer, Jim Shields, is no longer involved. Urban Milwaukee first reported that Shields, a celebrated local architect whose work includes the Museum of Wisconsin Art and the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Butterfly Vivarium, turned over the design reigns to other members of his firm, HGA Architects and Engineers. What exactly precipitated that reorganization is still unclear, but museum director Dan Keegan said a team of designers, contractors and museum curators filled in when Shields either left or was pushed out of the design process at this late phase. Though similar to the 2012 proposal, the new design adds a second floor to the 17,000-square-foot addition, as well as an outdoor area cantilevered out toward Lake Michigan. It lacks Shields’ glassy, double-height frontage onto the lake. The plan calls for more exhibition space, including a 5,000-square-foot gallery for feature exhibitions and a sculpture gallery visible from outside. Part of the goal is to engage the lakefront Oak Leaf Trail, inviting passersby to engage beyond the iconic brise-soleil of the building’s Santiago Calatrava–designed Quadracci Pavilion. The new front door is also closer to the parking lot, facilitating circulation. Instead of walking more than half a mile to enter through the 2001 Calatrava addition, visitors coming from the north can use a much closer point of entry that looks out to Lake Michigan—not the busy lakeside streets of downtown Milwaukee. Milwaukee County is also pitching in $10 million to repair the museum and the adjacent Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial building, which suffer from structural problems including foundation seepage and leaky windows. The museum’s grand reopening is slated for October 2015.
Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive. LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.