Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation, Random DJB Thoughts
Comments 7

Moved by Santiago Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum

Oh my…what a building, what a sculpture, what a space, what an experience!  The power of place indeed.

Just two weeks after seeing his bridges in Dublin, I had the opportunity to visit the Santiago Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Museum of Art today.  I had seen the building on a drive-by a few years ago, but this was my first time to see it both inside and out.  The internet is awash with both images and verbiage about this wonderful space.  I’ll only quote the dean of the school of architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (and a member, along with our host, of the selection committee for the building) who told our tour group today,

We got Calatrava when he was unknown and yet at the peak of his creative powers – sort of like the early Beatles, before they became superstars and started adding too many orchestrations.

What you’ll see below is a series of photos showing the “flapping” of the beautiful white wings (really a sunscreen)  from open to close.  Extraordinary as that sounds, I was prepared for that sight.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty and gracefulness of the interior space.  And I certainly wasn’t prepared to see the most elegant parking garage on the face of the planet (at least as I’ve seen it.)

This building opened shortly after 9/11, so much of the world’s attention was elsewhere.  It has worn well over the decade and still remains a remarkable statement about the genius of an architect/engineer/artist and the vision of a community often described as industrial and conservative.

Enough rambling…enjoy the photos and, more importantly, consider a trip to Milwaukee to see this place.

More to come…


Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum Front View
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum Wings Open
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum - Wings on the Way Down
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum With the Wings Almost Completely Lowered
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum with the sunscreen lowered
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum View Toward the Lake
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum View of the Closed Sunscreen from Inside
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum View of the Wing from Inside
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum - The Cathedral-like Connections to the Gallery
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum and the remarkable parking garage
Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum View to the Lake


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. Andrew says

    I didn’t realize how hyperbolic this building was until these pictures… the curves really add a simple elegance to the spaces. This vaguely reminds me of Eero Saarinen’s thin-shell structures using the hyperbola as a more efficient support mechanism.

  2. Andrew, it is interesting that you’d mention this. Several of us were talking while in the building, and Saaranin’s name came up. A colleague mentioned how the TWA Terminal – with its wings ready for flight – could have been an influence, and I also thought of the swoop and curves of Dulles Airport.

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