• Synthesis Incorporated

Fav Building Friday: Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion

Martin Sams, Architect and Studio Lead, shares the building that inspired him throughout college.

My favorite building is the Milwaukee Art Museum's Quadracci Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava. The colors, movement, and detailing respond harmoniously with its location on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Quadracci Pavilion contains a movable, wing-like brise soleil that opens to a wingspan of 217 feet (66 m) during the day, folding over the tall, arched structure at night or during inclement weather. The pavilion received the 2004 Outstanding Structure Award from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering. This iconic building often referred to as "the Calatrava", is used in the museum logo. The movement of the shading elements that open and close like bird wings are astonishing to see in person.

While attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee I lived only about two miles from this building. I spent a lot of time walking along the Lake and particularly near this building. It will always hold a special place in my heart and memories.

Often this building was a spot I would go to for inspiration while working on design projects in school. Its presence right on the edge of Lake Michigan was a great place to go to clear my head and think. Once while sitting nearby, a storm was blowing in off the Lake and I was able to witness the “wings” folding from outstretched to closed. Seeing this transformation from a form resembling a soaring bird to one more symbolic of a seashell protecting itself from the elements changed the way I thought about architecture. It made me realize that there can be plurality in design and that design solutions need not be static or just represent one thing or one idea but can be a conglomerate of thought.

Martin Sams, AIA, NCARB


© Synthesis Incorporated 2020

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