Rising like an elegant bird in flight, this landmark addition to Milwaukee's downtown museum reveals the remarkable artistic possibilities of concrete.
The first U.S. project designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the addition includes a new central building; a movable, wing-like sunscreen composed of 72 steel fins resting atop a vaulted, glass-enclosed reception hall; and a cable-stayed, suspended pedestrian bridge linking the campus with the lakefront and downtown.
The main building, with its smooth, curved walls and changing radii, required custom formwork that resembled fine cabinetry more than rough carpentry. Dense steel reinforcement in many areas added to the challenges. Working closely with contractor C.G. Schmidt, Prairie developed a high-slump, rapid-setting mix that would flow smoothly and offer maximum workability while delivering specified strengths of 6,000 psi.
Daily collaboration among masons, forms makers, concrete crews and Prairie quality control experts created the breathtaking shapes and finishes Calatrava sought.
Location: 700 North Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Size: 142,050 square feet
Architect: Santiago Calatrava S.A.
General Contractor: C.G. Schmidt, Inc., Milwaukee
Concrete Delivered: 20,000 yards total, including custom mixes formulated especially for the artistic and engineering challenges of the project