Posts tagged with "Milwaukee":

Placeholder Alt Text

This year’s University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Urban Edge Award will focus on post-industrial urban sites

As part of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s biennial Urban Edge Award, students are engaging with visiting designers, architects, and artists through a series of design workshops. Working with the students over the semester in three charrettes will be artist and designer Olalekan Jeyifous, Catie Newell of Alibi Studio, Fionn Bryan of the Harvard GSD, Joyce Hwang of Ants of the Prairie, Sergio Lopez-Pineiro of the Harvard GSD, and Aleksandr Mergold of Austin + Mergold. The award program will culminate in a public symposium with a keynote address by Walter Hood of Hood Design. Of the 15 projects produced by students with the workshop leaders, one exemplary work will be chosen and highlighted by Hood at the conclusion of the public symposium. In years past, the Urban Edge Award has been given to a single individual. The award was founded to recognize excellence in urban design through creating positive change in the public realm. By inviting six design professionals, the award could allow for a semester-long investigation into three sites across the City of Milwaukee. The theme of this year’s Urban Edge Award is "FROM WASTE TO WONDER: Working with What Remains." The main focus of the program will be three research and design workshops lead by two guest leaders each. The first workshop will be led by Jeyifous and Newell and will focus urban vacancy in the four-mile-long 30th Street Industrial Corridor. The 880-acre industrial landscape suffered like many Midwest industrial centers and now has over 100 acres of vacant land. The second workshop will be led by Fionn Byrne and Joyce Hwange and will focus on adaptive reuse along the Kinnickinnic River Corridor on the south side of the city. The third will tackle the idea of productive landscapes area around the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee River in the once thriving industrial Menomonee River Valley. Each of the sites throughout the city is typical of the post-industrial struggles Milwaukee has been dealing with for the past 40 years. The public symposium will take place on Saturday, April 15th, at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Along with the keynote address by Walter Hood, students and workshop leaders will present their work.
Placeholder Alt Text

In new Milwaukee initiative, only developers able to buy city-owned foreclosed properties

This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]archpaper.com.

Milwaukee residents were sorely disappointed at a packed City Hall meeting when they were told they could not partake in a program to buy city-owned foreclosed properties for $1. The Milwaukee Employment/Renovation Initiative (MERI) was set up to entice developers to buy and renovate vacant properties in the Sherman Park neighborhood, emphasis on developers. The initiative is only open to developers, which submitted to an RFQ in early January. Critics of the initiative say that they don’t believe developers buying large portions of the neighborhood will address pressing community issues.

Placeholder Alt Text

studio:indigenous wants to design architecture rooted in Native American worldviews

Chris Cornelius, founder of Milwaukee-based studio:indigenous, knew what he wanted to do when he started graduate school at the University of Virginia. His goal was no less than to develop an architecture that is based in the timeless worldviews of Native Americans. For the past decade, that goal has been unwavering, and has led to award-winning built and unbuilt work.

Cornelius is a member of the Oneida Nation, and the stories and traditions of native peoples are a key part of his identity. Every project by studio:indigenous starts with an intensive investigation of the narratives surrounding the client’s needs. Often working for Wisconsin tribes, Cornelius’s designs depart from the all-too-common iconographic motifs built on many reservations. (There is more than one turtle-shaped building in the Oneida Nation.) Rather, the work is consciously produced outside of a specific style and without direct reference to native architecture or symbolism. Instead of relying on historical sweat lodge structures for the sweat lodge-changing room at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee, Cornelius repurposed the stones that are used in the ceremonies held in the steamy sacred spaces as a base for the design. In the Oneida Veterans Memorial, on the Wisconsin Oneida Reservation, the long history of the Oneida’s service to the United States is manifest in the scaled timeline stretching though three acres of prairie grass.

“I realized at some point along this journey that I am not going to tie into anything stylistically,” said Cornelius. “I had to be able to trust myself. Most important to me, first and foremost, was to be a good architect. The Native American thing is not going to change; it’s who I am. So I have allowed my voice to express itself. That has turned into an aesthetic that is latent to the process.”

Cornelius works through complex drawings and models, producing images and forms that embody the narratives of his projects. The drawings, which have been recognized with multiple architectural and artistic awards, are intricately layered with colors, lines, and shapes. While times were slow during the recession, this drawing technique became an outlet for his continued research into articulating native narratives into formal operations. A series of drawings, entitled Radio Free Alcatraz, is a study of the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz Island in the late 1960s. A self-initiated project, Radio Free Alcatraz imagines that Native Americans never left Alcatraz and were planning to build a university on the island. Other similar projects formalize small pavilions based on the Oneida calendar.

Yet it is not only Native clients that have found value in studio:indigenous’s design approach. The focus on culture resonates with many groups that have strong cultural identities. studio:indigenous has worked with communities throughout Milwaukee, and found that the techniques translate across cultures and traditions. In every case, though, Cornelius sees the work not only as an embodiment of stories and traditions of the past, but also as the development of a contemporary story.

“The architecture is part of the current story,” Cornelius said. “What is it that we want to make or achieve? The stories haven’t necessarily changed, but the characters have.”

Indian Community School Milwaukee, WI

The true genesis of studio:indigenous came about through a collaboration with Antoine Predock for the Indian Community School, just outside of Milwaukee. Completed in 2007, the goal was to help ensure that the architecture was an accurate translation of the cultural values of the 11 Native Nations represented in the student body. The pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade, 150,000-square-foot school also serves as a community center for the Native American population of the Milwaukee area.

Radio Free Alcatraz San Francisco, CA

A speculative look at the occupation of Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, Radio Free Alcatrazimagines a new Native American University, part of the occupiers’ original plan. Through complexly layered drawings, sketches, and multimedia, the speculations are put on paper to be reflected upon. Historical, contemporary, and speculative forms and information are blended together in each drawing to produce a new understanding of the island and its possibilities.

Sweat Lodge Changing Room Milwaukee, WI

Known as the “Grandfather Stone,” the Sweat Lodge Changing Room for the Indian Community School of Milwaukee takes the form of a stone used in sweat lodge rituals. The gray form is meant to appear as if it had emerged from the earth and has always been in its location.

Oneida Maple Sugar Camp Oneida, WI

“tsi? watsikhe? tu-nihe,” or “The Place Where They Make Maple Sugar,” is an 800-square-foot project designed for the Oneida Tribal School in Oneida, Wisconsin. Along with providing the infrastructure to boil maple sap down to syrup, the building is an observational device. The ventilation cone provides a view of the “seven dancers”—the Pleiades—when the constellation is directly overhead during the Midwinter Ceremony.

Moon Domicile Conceptual

The Moon Domicile series is based on the moon calendar of the Oneida Nation. Each moon cycle throughout the year is associated with a specific ceremony or ritual. Each of the domiciles is formalized through these traditions, as well as the natural weather phenomena of each time of year. The narrative surrounding the Moon Domicile is ambiguous about whether each of the small projects would be created by human, animal, or other.

Placeholder Alt Text

Five proposals highlight potential for a new park in Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor

Five teams are vying for a chance to design a small park in Milwaukee’s evolving Inner Harbor. The small two-lot site is just a small portion of the nearly 1,000 acres of waterfront which the city hopes to eventually transform. The Take Me to the River competition, initiated by the non-profit Harbor District, Inc., is the latest push to raise public interest in the mostly post-industrial landscape. Milwaukee’s harbor is still a working harbor but much of it is unused. Vast tracts of the land surrounding the harbor are either filled with abandoned industrial buildings or are contaminated brownfields. In recent years, some these structures have begun to be dismantled and the land remediated. One of the most significant additions to the area is the University of Wisconsin School of Freshwater Sciences, a leading research facility in the Great Lakes. Recently teams of architects—including Chicago-based Studio Gang, Toronto-based DTAH, Vancouver-based PWL, and Denver-based Wenk—weighed in on the harbor as part of a Harbor District-led design charrette. Though that charrette was not intended to produce buildable proposals, this latest competition does hope to create new public space for the area. The small site for the Take Me to the River competition is situated at the intersection of Greenfield Avenue and the Kinnickinnic River. Each of the five teams participating provided proposals that range from an extensive reshaping of the shoreline to interactive designs. The participating teams and their projects include:
  • SmithGroupJJR and TKWA UrbanLab – Welcome to the River
  • MKExTEN (Vetter Denk Architects, Ten X Ten, and Design Fugitives) – Urban Flashlights
  • La Dallman Architects and Alfred Benesch Engineering – Waterlily Landing
  • Quorum Architects and Ayres Associates – Slosh Park
  • UWM Inner Harbor Team (UWM, City as a Living Laboratory, Creative Lighting Design, SEH) – Access/Engagement/Education
Placeholder Alt Text

Studio Gang’s research-based approach to ecological design rethinks the shape of urban waterfronts

As Studio Gang gains respect as an office that builds formally and programmatically ambitious projects, one aspect in particular has helped the firm continue to be a major force: It is an office that does its homework. Every project that the studio does is accompanied by a body of research as well as collaborations with experts often outside of architecture. “As architects, we think of our role as being that of the translator,” explained Claire Cahan, design director at Studio Gang. “Early on in the project we bring in experts from interdisciplinary fields to discuss the past, present, and future conditions of a site. Our job is to ask questions and translate ideas between disciplines.” This becomes particularly visible in projects that involve water ecologies.

After a yearlong study in collaboration with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), the studio released Reverse Effect (2011). The book explored urban and ecological implications of severing the link between the Chicago River and the Mississippi River, effectively reversing the flow of the Chicago River to its original direction (something that has actually happened three times). The book presented a new Chicago that embraced a reshaped river as part of its cultural and civic space.

“We’re interested in the intersection between built and natural environments,” said Cahan about the office’s broader vision and approach. “While building projects typically have distinct property lines and boundaries, natural systems often intersect with property lines in a fluid way. Through research, which includes conversation, mapping, and analysis, we seek to understand the natural, cultural, economic conditions far beyond a property line.”

A similar study, in collaboration with Milwaukee-based Applied Ecological Services and Edgewater Resources, looked at the 1,000-acre Milwaukee harbor. The Edge Effect master plan set out to establish a framework and logic for Milwaukee’s waterfront development. The master plan envisions relocating the current active inner harbor to a new outer harbor, while bringing the city to the water’s edge. The process would include softening the coastline to achieve a more complete and sustainable ecosystem by learning from stable natural coastlines and reefs. This concept is already being deployed in the Studio Gang–designed improvements to Chicago’s Northerly Island, which has a similar geographic situation.

Placeholder Alt Text

Gensler designs a new vision for the unloved Milwaukee Post Office

The long, low-slung Milwaukee Post Office is not a popular building. The rust-covered Brutalist structure sits along a five-block stretch of the Menominee Riverfront, a place that, until recently, was generally seen as the undesirable backside of the city. But that is all quickly changing. Just east of the post office, the Third Ward neighborhood has been completely transformed in the last ten years. The Menominee River Valley to the west is also seeing new life after over 100 years of being the city’s industrial heart. Now, Chicago-based developers R2, in collaboration with Gensler, are betting on a brighter future for the much-maligned post office.

When R2 bought the building and the surrounding land for $13 million in 2015, it knew it was going to be a long-term project. The United States Postal Service has a lease for its space through 2020, with the option to sign for up to 30 years. Even if the Postal Service were to vacate, the site would always have active train lines running under the building, between its massive concrete piloti. But that is not stopping R2 from planning ahead.

R2 and Gensler recently released new renderings and an outline of their plans for the site. Gensler’s designs call for a major mixed-use development that incorporates office space, residential, and entertainment, as well as small and big-box retail. The site benefits from extensive access to transportation, including ramps from the adjacent elevated freeway, the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, the city’s main Amtrak and Greyhound station, and the now under-construction city streetcar.

“The concerns that are on the site, that in the past have be seen as barriers to development, are now seen as potential drivers for the project,” explained Benjy Ward, Gensler principal and regional design leader. “The market has flipped. The elevated highway that runs by the site and the river have become assets.”

Along with renovating the current building, the project could include two large towers at each end of the site. The east tower would have 282,000 square feet of residential space, while the west tower (along with space in the existing building) would account for nearly one million square feet of office space. The 1,500 feet of riverfront would also be developed as a public promenade and an extension of the city’s growing Riverwalk. Restaurants will line the promenade, and kayak launches and boat docks will connect the project with river traffic. A foot bridge is proposed to connect the existing building to the James Biber–designed Harley Davidson Museum across the river.

Though the Postal Service will remain a tenant in the building for at least the next few years, Gensler’s plans are such that, if given the go-ahead, the project could begin. By working in the currently open land around the building, much of the proposal could be realized without disrupting normal operations.

If realized, the post office project will be one of many changing the face of downtown Milwaukee. Of those projects rising just north of the site, few are as ambitious in scale or program. Yet with at least three years to go before the site could be completely free of its current tenant, the city is going to have to wait a bit for delivery.

Placeholder Alt Text

Motorcyle manufacturer Royal Enfield opens first U.S. store in Milwaukee

Milwaukee may be known for its Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, but there is a new ride in town. Royal Enfield, a division of India-based Eicher Motors Ltd., has just opened its first company-owned U.S. dealership and North American headquarters in Milwaukee’s Third Ward district. The new space is meant to be part of a greater push to move the 115-year-old motorcycle company into the U.S. market. Local management worked with Milwaukee-based Ener-Con developers, who own the building, to lay out the space for both sales and office.

The new store and headquarters in located on the first floor of the historic four-story Mitchell Leather building. The building is distinctly Milwaukee and is constructed out of the light-colored Cream City bricks that were once manufactured in the city. These bricks are featured in the showroom by way of exposed walls and a simple material palette for the space. A polished concrete floor gives the feel of a clean garage filled with the classically designed Royal Enfield motorcycles. Motorcycle parts are both for sale and used to adorn the space, including a striking chandelier made out of Royal Enfield headlights.

Royal Enfield North America 226 North Water Street Milwaukee, WI Tel: 414-502-1204 Architect: Ener-Con

Placeholder Alt Text

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s water-inspired facade

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
The School of Freshwater Sciences is the first of its kind in the country, supporting a regional initiative to establish Milwaukee as a global hub for water-related research and technology. Located in the city's Harbor District, the project is an anchor for the re-utilization of industrial brownfield sites. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and Milwaukee-based architecture firm Continuum, the project is a long, linear addition to an existing building that was once used as a ceramics factory. The facility accommodates a dock for research vessels that have direct access to Lake Michigan. Natalie Gentile, ‎associate principal at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, said the design concept was about discovering a facade solution inspired by the visual qualities of water. She said flying into Milwaukee over Lake Michigan gives a unique vantage point of the water, and provided a departure point for the school's facade concept: “We loved the way the water responds to different daylight conditions, and we were hoping to capture some of that in the building elevation." The building integrates custom TAKTL panels with a Kawneer curtain wall into a thoughtful composition of horizontal and vertical regulating lines. The majority of the exterior shell is flat, but the project team was able to produce depth and curvilinearity through subtle two-dimensionally profiled shapes. Curves were rarely—but impactfully—incorporated into the facade. Custom-profiled louvers cast undulating shadow lines over the building, while a parapet wall camouflages the reading of the facade as a flat surface.
  • Facade Manufacturer TAKTL (UHPC); Kawneer (curtain wall); Goldray Industries (glazing)
  • Architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Design Architect); Continuum Architects + Planners, S.C. (Architect of Record)
  • Facade Installer JP Cullen
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Milwaukee, WI
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System rainscreen, curtain wall
  • Products TAKTL panels in Kalahari finish; Centria panels; Kawneer 451T curtain wall
The primary section of the facade is flanked by a set of gently curved bays and an elliptical stairwell inspired by boat hull geometry. The curtain wall incorporates extended mullion cap extrusions of varying length, evoking verticality of dripping rain, and cantilevered panels that give the facade a sense of movement akin to the flow of water. The curtain wall system picks up the geometry established by ribbon windows on the central portion of the facade. The compositional logic of the resulting grid is a response to a state of Wisconsin requirement that limits view glass percentage on facades dependent on solar orientation—in this case, the south-facing building was allowed to be composed of 30 percent openings along its primary facade. A set of ribbon windows set to this target established a grid with spandrel glass and rainscreen panels infilling opaque areas. The project team conducted numerous color studies looking at how to add dimension to the flat facade. The team arrived at a solution that incorporated five colors into a specific patterning that utilizes a proportioning system of one-thirds of a standard panel size to limit material waste. Gentile said the panels played a significant role in producing the water-inspired visual effects she sought: "I'm really pleased with how the TAKTL panels are performing in terms of meeting our architectural goals for replicating the way water reflects light under different lighting conditions.” She said photography taken in the morning versus the evening shows how the building—clad in blue panels—can range anywhere from golden to violet hues. “We were very concerned about the sheen of the panels. We knew this modest sheen was important to getting us that changing coloration and reflectivity." Bob Barr, principal of Continuum, said the project successfully worked with the state's regulations on view glass percentage to producing an impactful facade: “To have something very visible after the limitation of the glazing is why we played so much with the patterning of the spandrel glass."
Placeholder Alt Text

Future still uncertain for Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes

Milwaukee’s iconic Mitchell Park Domes may be in more danger from the unstable political ground they sit on than their direly needed repairs. As previously reported by The Architect's Newspaper, the three conoidal glass conservatory domes closed in February due to safety concerns surrounding their deteriorating concrete. Since then, the Show Dome, filled with decorative plants, has been reopened, while the Desert and Tropical Domes have remained closed. The battle for what to do with the domes has been among the Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, the Milwaukee County Board, and the public. In March, Abele—who's purportedly in favor of demolition—convened a committee to discuss the future of the domes. Since that committee was convened without public notice, some are calling foul under the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. At the same time, the Milwaukee County Board has assembled a task force to pursue a repair and preservation plan. Abele has recently expressed that he will work with the County Board team but will also continue to work with his own committee on plans for the domes. Both Abele’s and the County’s task force include business, non-profit, and community members. Currently, crews are working to wrap interior concrete members in an attempt to slow degradation. The Tropical and Desert Domes are expected to reopen in late September and late October, respectively. Built between 1959 and 1967, the domes are not geodesic as many initially think. Designed by local architect Donald Grieb, the domes are conical in shape and built out of precast concrete rather than steel. A triangulated aluminum glass skin sits just above the concrete skeleton of the building. Over time, water from without and within has damaged the concrete, leading to the domes’ current predicament.
Placeholder Alt Text

A handful of new projects are transforming Milwaukee’s downtown skyline

With at least four new towers, all within a few blocks of one another, either completed or planned to be completed before 2020, Milwaukee’s skyline is seeing its greatest change in recent memory. Though the city’s East Side and Third Ward, immediately north and south of downtown, respectively, have seen modest development over the past 15 years, the downtown itself has been decidedly quiet for more than 20 years.

The first project to be finished was 833 East Michigan Avenue. At 18 stories, the $100 million tower is tall by Milwaukee standards. The multitenant office building was designed by Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater. With so few contemporary office buildings downtown, 833 East stands out with its integrated technology and open floor plans. And with views of Lake Michigan on three sides, the project is particularly appealing as the city continues to improve the lakefront.

Less than a block away, one of Milwaukee’s most recognized businesses, Northwestern Mutual, is doubling down on its investment here. The company’s 32-story, 1.1-million-square-foot office tower will be one of the cities largest and tallest buildings. The $450 million project includes the tower and a lowrise, with a two-block-long commons, which will connect the highrise to Northwestern Mutual’s other historic Benjamin H. Marshall–designed neoclassical office building. Designed by New Haven–based Pickard Chilton, the tower is a sweeping curve not dissimilar to Chicago’s 333 Wacker. Well underway, the project has already significantly changed downtown´s appearance. Much to the delight of the city, the tower will help maintain 1,100 jobs in the neighborhood, while potentially adding another 1,900. The commons will feature public spaces, including the new Northwestern Mutual Gardens, a visitors’ center, and a public cafe.

Northwestern Mutual is not stopping with a new office tower. Immediately northwest of the tower, site work has begun on its next investment, a 33-story residential, parking, and retail tower. Even though this structure, designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, will be shorter than the office tower, it will add 300 residential units to a downtown that is almost completely devoid of housing. Northwestern Mutual’s decision to build both a residential and office tower in the often-sleepy downtown is intended to strengthen the city. “We believe in Milwaukee. It’s been our hometown for virtually all of our 155 years,” Northwestern Mutual chairman and CEO John E. Schlifske said. “This will be a signature development that makes a huge statement about the attractiveness of the whole Milwaukee metro area. We are going to be here and continue to play a vital role in this community for generations to come.”

Adding to the housing stock of the area, another skyscraper has just taken a major step toward becoming realized. The much-anticipated Couture, designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka|Chung, has recently received approval from the federal government for the demolition of the transit center that is currently on its site. Federal approval was required because the transit center was partially paid for with federal money. Local company Barrett Visionary Development is currently in the process of acquiring the land, and is expecting to start site work, including demolition, by August, with construction starting in earnest in early 2017. With completion of the $122 million project expected to wrap up in 2019, the Couture will rise 44 stories and include a public-transit concourse for Milwaukee’s forthcoming streetcar. The base of the tower will include 50,000 square feet of retail. Its position directly on Lincoln Memorial Boulevard means residents will have uninterrupted views of Lake Michigan, the Discovery World museum, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial.

Rinka|Chung also has its hands in the planned Lakefront Gateway Project, which will help connect all of these developments to the lakefront. Led by Milwaukee-based GRAEF, a team comprising of Rinka|Chung, Vancouver-based PFS Studio, Toronto-based Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, and social event group NEWaukee, the Lakefront Gateway will bridge the busy Lincoln Memorial Boulevard. Its design, titled Urban Confluence, won out in a competition against teams lead by AECOM, James Corner Field Operations,  and the Office of James Burnett. The GRAEF design is intended to be a civic space and city icon, as well as a connection between downtown and the lakefront.

For those familiar with Milwaukee’s downtown, all of this development may come as a bit of a surprise, considering the extensive number of empty stores farther to the west of these new towers. But Mayor Tom Barrett believes investing in downtown is vital to the health of the city as a whole. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance to make an investment of this scale in downtown Milwaukee. It means more jobs, a stronger tax base, more community support, and more Northwestern Mutual employees giving back to all areas of the community,” he said.

Placeholder Alt Text

Renderings of Milwaukee Bucks Arena in Milwaukee unveiled

The Milwaukee Bucks have revealed an updated set of renderings for their new multipurpose arena located in Downtown Milwaukee. The NBA basketball team enlisted Populous to design the facility, which will play host to various sporting and entertainment events.

Working in collaboration with local firms Eppstein Uhen and HNTB, the design team drew inspiration from Milwaukee’s expansive architectural history, along with the region’s natural surroundings. The arena is an ode to the city’s industrial heritage—a handcrafted zinc arch swoops over the structure while its glass interior maintains a lightness and transparency.

Senior principal at Populous, Brad Clark said the designers were “inspired by the natural beauty of Wisconsin’s rivers, lakes, and forests,” and wanted the stadium to “seamlessly connect with surrounding neighborhoods.” The new renderings are the final product of the design process overseen by the city of Milwaukee and local public officials before construction on the arena begins in the summer.

The city hopes the 714,000-square-foot arena will revitalize Milwaukee’s downtown area, home to the Milwaukee City Hall and the Mackie Building. Both landmarks were built in the 1800s and combine elements of Italian and Flemish Renaissance that contribute to Milwaukee’s diverse architectural landscape. Populous aims to use the building as a platform to bring people together in what will become a new entertainment district.

But there are doubts as to whether the arena can blend into the city without drawing too much attention to itself. Its size alone makes a strong statement, while the roof shape has been criticized for being out of touch with the civic spaces around the city.

There are also questions about how effectively it will encourage transformation in Milwaukee’s downtown area when there are no big events to host. Populous has been behind the designs of the Yankee Stadium and the London Olympic Stadium with both landmarks becoming central attractions in their respective cities. And while it’s uncertain whether the Milwaukee arena will receive a similar reception, its large-scale production hints that it intends to make its presence in the city felt. Completion is expected 2018.

Placeholder Alt Text

Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes closed indefinitely amid safety concerns

The Mitchell Park Domes have been an iconic and well-loved part of the Milwaukee skyline for several generations.  As of February 9th, the Domes are closed to the public amidst reports of falling concrete, and their future is unknown. Built in stages between 1959 and 1967, the three domes were designed by local architect Donald Grieb, who took inspiration from a contemporary architect and engineer, Buckminster Fuller. Fuller’s office declined to partner with Grieb, noting that they did not want to alter the design of the structures they were working on. At the Mitchell Domes, Grieb made two important innovations to typical geodesic domes of the period. First, they are considered to be the first conoidal glass domes ever built – meaning they have an elongated vertical axis (140 feet in diameter and 85 feet high), making them proportionally taller than typical half-spherical domes. Second, the substructure was made of reinforced precast concrete – as opposed to bare steel or aluminum components. The domes were built in the age some important technological advancements in concrete, and one in which the likes of Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen were creating innovative forms out of the material. The structural ribbing consists of cast on site steel reinforced concrete units. These members are welded to steel plates, also encased in concrete, which give a monolithic appearance from the inside. Over the top of each dome is a triangulated aluminum and glass skin, connected to the concrete frame by stainless steel hubs. One disadvantage of this uninsulated concrete structure is its susceptibility to water. Water working its way into cracks in concrete, corroding its steel reinforcement, has caused expansion and spalling. The glass skin on each Dome is designed to be watertight and has an internal drainage system for condensation, yet with age water has found its way into any building – through cracks in the glass and clogged drains. The Tropical Dome maintains 80 degrees and 85 percent humidity, putting the concrete at risk from the beginning. Since 1994, the domes have undergone numerous repairs and renovations. In 2008 a major renovation involved remodeling the lobby, replacement of hundreds of cracked glass panels, and the addition internal lighting that gave the structures a more defining presence at nighttime. Milwaukee County, the owner of the domes, spent $200,000 on concrete repairs in the Tropical dome between 2013 and 2014, and in 2015 had flagged another $500,000 for a structural study and to install protective nets.  Local engineering consulting firm GRAEF USA was hired to analyze the existing structure and propose a fix. The severity of the crumbling concrete led to the closing of the Arid Dome on January 28th. A week later, the County made the decision to close the domes indefinitely, until short term and long term solutions can be evaluated. According to County Executive Chris Abele, the long term recommendation is for a complete reconstruction of the three domes, at an estimated cost between $65–75 Million. The proposed short term fix involves wrapping thousands of concrete members to contain spalled concrete, which has been reported to be as large as a man’s hand. Milwaukee County has reason to take major precautions with its infrastructure. In 2010, a massive concrete slab fell from the entrance to the County-owned O’Donnell parking structure, killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring two others. The Milwaukee County Board has announced a Public Hearing on February 24th to discuss the future of the domes. In the meantime, the issue was quick to become politicized in the upcoming race for County Executive, as Chris Abele’s challenger blames him for not investing in the city’s public infrastructure.