building a masterpiece: calatrava in milwaukee

 Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion, Milwaukee Art Museum,  (Photo by mjuzenas)

News  services and online media are reporting on the excitement leading up to next month’s ‘Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and The Milwaukee Art Museum’ exhibit (Sept 8-Jan 1). The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) is celebrating the anniversary of the building with a self-exhibit of the Quadracci Pavilion- now a world famous architectural icon for the city.

The exhibit marks 10 years since 2001, when the art museum’s opening saw its distinctive robot wings first machine into life, their movements beckoning visitors into the facility.

Exhibiting the ‘masterpiece’ – locals refer to the building simply as ‘The Calatrava’- signals the long-term gains, to the museum and the city, of a bold, imaginative architectural statement, and the creative courage on behalf of its architect and Museum board.

Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the futuristic exhibition space was the Spanish-born architect’s first completed work built in the US. Submitting to the building’s design competition, Calatrava conceded the relatively new city had given the designer pause after a lifetime career designing  modern bridges and stations against the backdrop of Europe’s more historic centers. The year of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s new pavilion completed however, TIME Magazine hailed the architecture ‘Top Design of 2001’.

Quadracci Pavilion, Interior by Santiago Calatrava (Photo by O. Palsson)

Despite critics’ initially railing against its ‘exhibitionist’ design and construction continuing amid reports of cost over-runs the art museum building’s daring originality, strong lines, and bridges to the surrounding landscape have proven itself a true exhibit, a financially repayed landmark and tourist destination.

‘Building a Masterpiece’ also displays the architect’s watercolors and models, “works of art in themselves—that track the evolution of the building’s design” reports Chief Art Museum Curator Brady Roberts to the Chicago Tribune. He says,

Calatrava’s “models reveal the complex development of the moving wings … one of the most spectacular architectural elements in the world.”

Viewers will witness through Calatrava’s drawings his search for design sources in Nature and the body, rather than architectural precedents.

Calatrava has trained as artist, engineer and architect. Rare in an age of specialization it has perhaps allowed a celebrated blending of function, dizzying mechanical feat and pure fantasy. ‘Building a Masterpiece’-  housing and forming an exhibit- builds on this blend and offers insight into Calatrava’s art.

If only more of our civic structures could repay as much ♦

(Photos sourced and attributed from Flickr Commons]

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One thought on “building a masterpiece: calatrava in milwaukee

  1. Pingback: bridging a chord: calatrava in jerusalem | imodernreview

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