The graceful Quadracci Pavilion is a sculptural, postmodern addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum completed in 2001, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
The Milwaukee Art Museum is open for visitors to experience the Quadracci Pavilion and first floor of the Museum’s collection galleries, featuring artwork from antiquities to contemporary. Tickets are timed, and are required to enter the Museum.
Visit mam.org to reserve tickets and explore online resources including virtual tours, curator talks, and creative activities for kids and families.
Museum hours: Thurs–Sun, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (9:30 a.m. entrance reserved for high-risk individuals)
See the Burke Brise Soleil (“wings”) open and close, Thursday–Sunday, at 10 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m., as weather permits.
The Quadracci Pavilion
The Quadracci Pavilion is the iconic sculptural addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava. The Spanish architect was inspired by the “dramatic, original building by Eero Saarinen…the topography of the city” and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style architecture.
The 142,050-square-foot structure was completed in 2001 and houses a grand reception hall, an auditorium, a large exhibition space, a store, two cafés, and parking. Both cutting-edge technology and old-world craftsmanship went into creating the graceful building, which was made largely by pouring concrete into one-of-a-kind wooden forms.
Windhover Hall is the grand reception hall and among the pavilion’s many architectural highlights. Complete with flying buttresses, pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and a central nave topped by a 90-foot-high glass roof, it is Calatrava’s interpretation of a Gothic cathedral. An average-sized, two-story family home would fit comfortably inside it. The hall’s chancel is shaped like the prow of a ship, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking over Lake Michigan. Adjoining the central hall are two tow-arched promenades, the Baumgartner Galleria and Schroeder Galleria, with expansive views of the lake and downtown.
The Museum’s signature wings, the Burke Brise Soleil, form a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan. The brise soleil is made up of 72 steel fins, ranging in length from 26 to 105 feet. The entire structure weighs 90 tons. It takes 3.5 minutes for the wings to open or close. Sensors on the fins continually monitor wind speed and direction, so when winds exceed 23 mph for more than 3 seconds, the wings close automatically.
According to Santiago Calatrava, the Quadracci Pavilion’s design “responds to the culture of the lake: the sailboats, the weather, the sense of motion and change.” And “in the crowning element of the brise soleil,” he stated, “the building’s form is at once formal (completing the composition), functional (controlling the level of light), symbolic (opening to welcome visitors), and iconic (creating a memorable image for the Museum and the city).”
The expansion of the Museum was made possible through the generosity of donors in a capital campaign, with major funding provided by Betty and Harry Quadracci.
Welcoming visitors and providing a tranquil separation between the city and the Museum are the gardens designed by world-renowned landscape architect Dan Kiley (1912–2004). The Museum grounds were redesigned in conjunction with the Quadracci Pavilion, with a network of gardens, plazas, and fountains. The geometric patterns of Kiley’s Cudahy Garden work well to integrate the site as a whole, reflecting the formal articulation of Eero Saarinen’s modernist War Memorial Center and counterbalancing Santiago Calatrava’s more organic but recurring patterns–the Quadracci Pavilion beside the garden, and the bridge and brise soleil soaring above it.
Running parallel to the Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion is a formally organized rectangular garden that measures 600 feet by 100 feet. The garden is divided into five lawns by a series of 10-foot-tall hedge lines; two paved plazas with fountains that rise to 35 feet bookend the grassy expanse. Connecting the plazas is a narrow water channel that runs the entire length of the garden. Water jets within the channel create a solid 4-foot-high water curtain that dances and sparkles with fiber optic lights. Find your place on a bench and enjoy. Enlivening other sections of the landscape around the Museum are a grove of linden trees and a stand of Sargent crabapple trees with a periwinkle groundcover. The gardens are named for philanthropist Michael Cudahy, whose donation made the landscape design possible.