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Milwaukee Art Museum
"I've heard every pie joke in the book. I'm still waiting for an original one." Jason Biggs
Not only have I regularly traveled to Chicago, I also lived there during the 1990s, and just recently, I relocated there. Yet, for so long, I remained a stranger to a near-by city: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It's only a little over an hour train ride from downtown Chicago, and both cities are perched on Lake Michigan facing east. Recently, I decided to pay a visit to this forgotten city when I had a reason to be there: to visit a dear friend during his business assignment.
As I suspected (and with no negative judgments) Milwaukee was not the number one city in the notable urban city category. However, there is a must-see site on beautiful Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM).
Designed by Santiago Calatrava (his first completed project in the United States), the building was opened on May 4, 2001. The structure expresses Calatrava's unmistakable style with the brise soleil roof structure. It looks like a perched bird with its wide wings spread open. The city might be best known as the home of some fantastic beer breweries, but with Calatrava's sculpturesque addition, the Milwaukee has seen a rebirth in cultural potential. As a sister city, Chicago has even learned from Milwaukee by commissioning another Pritzker award winner to build its art museum: Renzo Piano's The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
MAM is a successful architectural project, embellishing and defining the skyline of Milwaukee, reminding us of cultural aspects in the city. Entering Calatrava's museum, one immediately feels the arrival moment as if embraced by wings: bright lights pour into the white marbled lobby and greet visitors with a magic carpet of sparking lake water diffused into the center of the lobby space. Lights are reflected and softened by the concrete arches of structural colonnades. With each curve and arched column, one appreciates the comfortable sense of scale without feeling tiny and overwhelmed.
Calatrava's addition to Milwaukee is a treasure to its community and culture; giving the city another positive identity--that of a sensual bird.