Thursday, February 24, 2011

Milwaukee Art Museum Expedition

I first heard of the unusual design of the new addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum almost a decade ago, and I was intrigued by what I heard about it. I determined that this was a structure I wanted to see in person. My goal was achieved recently when Milwaukee was the city where my plane landed for a meeting I had in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Art Museum is composed of several components, but the one I was interested in, is the one called the"Quadracci Pavilion". When I first saw the phrase, "Quadracci Pavilion", I assumed it was some sort of architectural term. However, further research taught me that it is called the Quadracci Pavilion because the Quadracci family is responsible for the $10 million gift from Betty and Harry Quadracci that kicked off the capital campaign to build, what the museum website calls, "a sculptural, postmodern addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum". It seems that the Quadracci family was able to make such a generous donation because of the success of the printing company they started in 1971, called Quad/Graphics. The company has been the printer of well-known publications, such as, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, Newsweek, and Businessweek. The Quadracci Pavilion was designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, and was completed in 2001. Santiago Calatrava is the same architect who went on to design the famous Sundial Bridge (completed in 2004) over the Sacramento River, in Redding, California. I visited, photographed, and wrote about the Sundial Bridge in a March 13, 2009, post on this same blog (see archives). In being chosen to be the architect for the Milwaukee project, Calatrava said he was inspired by the original building, the topography of the city, and Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie-style architecture. (In fact, part of the Quadracci Pavilion reminded me of the magnificent Monona Terrace, located in Madison, Wisconsin. The original designs for Monona Terrace were created by Frank Lloyd Wright, although the designs were not actually implemented until decades after his death.)

The design of the Quadracci Pavilion incorporates both cutting-edge technology and old-world craftsmanship. In fact, its grand entrance hall is Santiago Calatrava's postmodern interpretation of a Gothic Cathedral, complete with flying buttresses, pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and a central nave. The hand-built structure was made largely by pouring concrete into one-of-a-kind wooden forms. The museum's "signature wings", the brise soleil, form a movable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan. It is made 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; whenever winds exceed 23 mph for more than 3 seconds, the wings close automatically.

I consider the fact that my short visit to Milwaukee was on a day that the bries soleil actually opened up, a gift of God's grace and I am extremely thankful! Since the bries soleil cannot be guaranteed to be open when you visit, there is a video of the process on the museum's website, . While their website is a "visual feast" for someone who likes architectural photography, there is nothing like SEEING IT IN PERSON to best satisfy one's curiosity! Although I only had a short time to visit the museum's lakeside location, before boarding my plane to return home, it was a gorgeous, sunny day with calm winds, and I arrived before the actual opening time of the doors to the museum. When museum visiting hours started, I suddenly began hearing music playing on the loudspeakers outside of the building, and I could see that the bries soleil was starting to move! HURRAH!!! I was blessed to be able to see it open up completely, and this collage shows that sequence.

As I pondered the experience of seeing the Quadracci Pavilion being transformed in appearance before my very eyes, I was reminded of the Bible's promise in Philippians 3:21, which says that Christ followers are in a constant state of transformation as well, to make us more like Christ. This is paraphrased in The Message to say "We're awaiting the arrival of the Saviour, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him." So whenever you get impatient with me, just remember that I am in the PROCESS of transformation, and a LONG way from completion. So all of us might as well ENJOY THE EXPEDITION OF TRANSFORMATION! Miles of transforming smiles! Tricia
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