Lakefront project could
proposed building evokes Calatrava touch on nearby art
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A Great Lakes education
group unveiled ambitious plans Wednesday for a soaring,
$30 million building on the lakefront that could steal
some thunder from the Milwaukee Art Museum's striking,
Calatrava-designed addition just to the north.
The newcomer, a white,
sail-like structure with a cabled mast that evokes the
museum expansion, would be built at the end of Municipal
Pier - a peninsular extension of E. Michigan St. - and
be cantilevered 328 feet out over the water.
project, which would include classrooms, exhibit space
and aquariums, got an enthusiastic reception from the
city's Harbor Commission, which controls the site. Commission
chairman Daniel Steininger called it "the jewel that will
complete the picture" on the lakefront.
Steininger directed his
staff to lay the groundwork for negotiating a long-term
lease with Pier Wisconsin (formerly, the Wisconsin Lake
Schooner Education Association), the group behind the
project, and give the issue "the highest priority." Pier
Wisconsin has already built a $4.2 million, 137-foot replica
of the 19th-century schooners - the Denis Sullivan, a
floating classroom docked on the south edge of Municipal
Santiago Calatrava, architect
of the museum addition, reportedly has been less enthusiastic
about plans for the new building, which is being designed
by McClintock Architects of Mequon. A friend said the
Spanish-born architect "went nuts" when he saw a rendering
and complained that the building's white sails and tall,
cabled mast "ridiculed" his own design.
Cudahy, a big benefactor of both the art museum expansion
and the schooner building, acknowledged that Calatrava
was "kind of upset" when he first saw the plans. "But
we sat down over dinner and a bottle of wine, and we're
great friends again," Cudahy said. "He's very much for
it now. He thinks it's wonderful. I think we've convinced
him it will complement his building, not compete with
Calatrava, who works out
of offices in Zurich, Switzerland, and Paris, could not
be reached for comment.
His local partner in the
project, architect David Kahler, said in an interview
that visually, the building "has the potential to create
a lot of competition" not only for the Calatrava addition
but for the schooner itself. "That's not to say that you
can't build something else on the lakefront," Kahler added,
"but you don't want to undo the good that's being done
The project has won the
official endorsement of the art museum. "I'll leave it
to others to comment on the architecture, but we're thrilled
to have an educational institution like this as a neighbor,"
said Christopher Goldsmith, the museum's executive director.
The building still needs approval of the Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Frank Steeves, chairman
of Pier Wisconsin's board of directors, said the group
had already raised about half of the $30 million needed
to build the facility - a sum that will include a $5 million
endowment to cover operating costs.
Cudahy acknowledged that
raising the rest would be a challenge. But if everything
proceeds on schedule, Steeves said, the first pilings
would be driven into the lake this summer, construction
of the building would begin in the fall and the project
could be complete by autumn 2004.
Steve Books, president
of Pier Wisconsin, said the purpose of the building will
be to teach people of all ages about the role of fresh
water in sustaining life. Piggybacking on the teaching
done aboard the schooner, the building will offer accredited
programs in everything from water chemistry and weather
to maritime history, native and exotic species, Great
Lakes commerce and water testing, he said.
Danni Gendelman, a leader
of one of the building's major exhibitors, Great Lakes
Future, originally had even bigger dreams. "We envisioned
something of international scale," she said. "But you'll
still be able to see and touch and smell the water, and
as a regional venue this will be very nice."
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's
Great Lakes Water Institute, Milwaukee Public Schools,
the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the DNR (which
would have an office there) are among a long list of partners
in the venture.
Mark McClintock, one of
the architects, said the four-level building was conceived
by his father, Jim McClintock, in the shape of a nautical
compass, its curved sides reminiscent of the sails of
the nearby schooner; the cables strung from the 140-foot
mast would anchor the points of the compass at ground
level. And the 90-foot-high walls, he said, would be constructed
of a high-pressure resin laminate used in Europe and admired
for its ability to withstand rough weather.
Among the interior features:
a waterfall in the lobby, along with a tunnel of water
leading to the lake's edge; saltwater and freshwater aquariums;
exhibit space with a three-quarter-size replica of the
schooner suspended above; labs and classrooms, including
long-distance learning facilities; a 144-seat, high-tech
theater; a small restaurant; offices; and a lakefront
A walkway, open to the
public year-round, would encircle the building. The south
side of the pier would add landing facilities for small
Harbor Commission member
Kris Martinsek envisioned entertainment packages promoting
an array of attractions on the lakefront, including the
schooner building, the art museum, Summerfest and the
Betty Brinn Children's Museum. "It's a no-brainer," she
Steininger said the building
could help reshape the identity of Milwaukee: "The greatest
asset this community has is the lake. That's the good
news. The bad news is that a lot of people don't know
it. This building really brings them into the loop."