The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Architecture on the Avenue

    It’s always a good sign when you can’t count the examples of fantastic architecture on campus on the fingers of one hand. You do OK at the beginning, when you check off

    The library was comstructed in 1898.

    the beautiful Gesu Church that is the heart of the campus, and then move on to Johnston Hall and Marquette Hall, flanking it on either side. Raynor Library makes the list, as does the Alumni Memorial Union. But now you’re up to five, and there are so many more great buildings left, like the St. Joan of Arc Chapel or Straz Tower. And that’s not even counting buildings of questionable architectural greatness, like “the Beer Can” McCormick or the bizarre Lalumiere Language Hall. It goes without saying that these buildings contribute to the distinct spirit and beauty of the Marquette campus.

    But limiting a list of great architecture to those found on campus is almost criminal, especially when you are only minutes away from buildings that may trump some of those. You don’t have to go far to find them; in fact, you can find four of the best simply by going down Wisconsin Avenue.

    If you do choose to go down Wisconsin Avenue and seek out these fine buildings, the first one you will find will be a mere instant off campus, the Milwaukee Public Library. Built in 1898, Central Library is not only the first building on our list, but it is also the oldest. To select the library’s design, a national competition was sponsored by the library. The winning design was submitted by George Bowman Ferry & Alfred C. Clas, a pair of architects whose first joint commission was the Pabst Mansion, 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave.

    The library’s design called for a fusion of French and Italian renaissance styles and laid out an entire city block to house both the library’s collection and that of the Milwaukee Public Museum. This gives the building a sense of majesty and classical appeal, perfectly suited for the wealth of knowledge it contains. The building is shaped in the form of a large “U,” which was originally done so the library could take up one half and the Milwaukee Public Museum could take up the other. But in the 1960s, the museum moved into its own building, and the library took over the resulting space.

    Further down, adjacent to the Riverwalk, is 100 East, appropriately located at 100 E. Wisconsin Ave. This high-rise was built in 1989, but it was designed in the style of the traditional German architecture of the downtown area. The building is a reimagining of German architecture in more than just its appearance, however. It is built on the site of the former Pabst Building, built in 1891 and one of the first skyscrapers in Milwaukee. When the Pabst Building was torn down in 1980 after almost a century of existence, it was the tallest building to ever be demolished in Wisconsin. 100 East actually resembles the original Pabst Building, so it is truly more of a reborn, updated Pabst Building than a modern replacement.

    A few blocks down, at the corner of Jackson Street and Wisconsin Avenue, sits another one of Milwaukee’s historic buildings, the Wisconsin Gas Building. Built in 1930, this building is known not as much for its architectural superiority as for the “weather flame” that remains perpetually illuminated at its top. The flame, which was added in 1956, changes color to indicate the upcoming weather. Gold forecasts cold, red signals warm weather, blue means there is no change coming and a flickering light of any color means rain is expected.

    The building is mostly comprised of brick walls, although the bottom two and a half stories are made of granite, a sharp contrast to the sunny upper stories. As the building rises into the sky, the walls move closer to the center in the form of cubical setbacks, a hallmark of Art Deco style. The building has gone through changes in both name and owners over the years. Originally it was known as the Milwaukee Gas Light Building. but its name was changed to the Wisconsin Gas Building in 1966. In 2001, the building was purchased from We Energies by Paul Weise, who opened the building to tenants. Currently a Starbucks Coffee resides on the ground floor, a true sign of entry into the modern era.

    The last of these buildings “on Wisconsin” actually isn’t on Wisconsin — but it may as well be. A short walk from the point where Wisconsin Avenue becomes Prospect Avenue will take you right to the entrance of the Milwaukee Art Museum. The newest architectural marvel to greet the city, the building is instantly memorable. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the building is called the Quadracci Pavilion and resembles the prow of a ship overlooking Lake Michigan, with two expansive wings known as the Burke Brise Soleil. These wings serve as a sunscreen and have a wingspan comparable to that of a Boeing 747.

    But the majesty of this building does not end with its outward appearance. Upon entering the museum, you are greeted with Windhover Hall, an entrance hall as big as a two-story house. The hall has been described as a postmodern Gothic cathedral and lies below a 90-foot-high glass ceiling. The interior only adds to the building’s aesthetic appeal, making the museum even more definitively one of the most amazing works of architecture in the city.

    This is only a small sampling of the great works of architecture Milwaukee has to offer. Even on Wisconsin Avenue, there are more to choose from, such as the U.S. Bank Center or the Midwest Airline Center. Others, such as the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower or the Harley-Davidson Museum, exist throughout the city. If you want to see some prime examples of good architecture in Milwaukee, I highly suggest taking the #10 bus route down Wisconsin Avenue. You might find that some of your favorite buildings are just down the street.

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