05 January 2008

On the wings of a dove

The alabaster steel wings rise over Milwaukee's lakeshore like a gull, poised for flight. Tension wires shimmer like gossamer strands, straining to hold back the impending journey. It is at once structural and organic, geometric and flowing, a stroke of genius in this brewery town rising to the occasion, a gem on Lake Michigan's western shore.
Santiago Calatrava's first US commission, the Milwaukee Art Museum's futuristic addition perched on the lakeshore. The original MAM building that still houses 90-95% of the collection is a prime example of '70s architecture - precast concrete panels creating "floating" cubes of dark wood, few windows and exposed structure. That Calatrava seemingly ignored this existing building yet connected the two seamlessly is a refreshing look at the architecture of additions.

Calatrava plays with light and space throughout this building, expertly marrying geometric angles with organic curves and beautiful details. The placement of a brightly colored Chihuly chandelier in the stark white lobby mirrors Calatrava's use of shape and arrengement to create a truly ethereal experience.

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