Museum of Wisconsin Art

Museum of Wisconsin Art

West Bend, USA, 2013
9. December 2013
Museum of Wisconsin Art
2013
West Bend, Wisconsin

Client
Museum of Wisconsin Art
 
Architect
HGA Architects and Engineers

Design Principal
James Vander Heiden, AIA, PE

Project Architect
Peter Balistrieri

Project Manager
Russ Drewery, AIA

Project Lead Designer
James Shields, FAIA

Project Team
Joe Tarlizzo, David Lang, Pao Yang, Ron Burns

Structural Engineer
HGA – Matthew Mikolainis

MEP/FP Engineers
HGA – Mechanical: Steve Mettlach, Jill Schuette, Kevin Pope
HGA – Electrical: Ryan Kannass, Scott Wheaton

Civil/Landscape Architect
Graef

Lighting Designer
HGA – Cathy Hall

Interior Designer
HGA – Jane Dedering

Contractor/Construction Manager
M.A. Mortenson

Exterior Fiber Cement Panels
Nichiha Illumination Series

Glass Curtain Wall
Wausau Metals

Large Format Ceiling Panels
Armstrong "Optima Open Plan"

Site Area
1.5 acres

Building Area
31,000 sf

Photos
Darris Lee Harris

Drawings
HGA Architects and Engineers
The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) started in 1961 as the West Bend Gallery of Fine Arts, focused on the collection and display of one local artist, Carl von Marr. Five decades and two name changes later (in between the institution was the West Bend Art Museum) MOWA has moved into a new facility that reflects its larger collection and wider reach. HGA Architects and Engineers answered a few questions about the recently completed building that sits on a triangular lot paralleling the Milwaukee River.
The museum west façade as seen from across the Milwaukee River
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?

We were invited to interview for a very modest renovation/addition to a very small regional art museum over a decade ago. While the original project was not terribly desirable due to the weak existing colonial building, we had some indistinct feeling that there was something interesting here culturally. It took a long time to evolve and develop, but it finally transformed into a fantastic commission, especially after the museum renamed itself “The Museum of Wisconsin Art” and began a mission of collecting, preserving and exhibiting the work of artists that had had an important formative experience here.
View from the southwest of the entry into the atrium
Can you describe your design process for the building?

We designed 9 complete schemes over a period of 9 years. The schemes were for several different sites, sometimes investigating renovation of existing buildings, sometimes for new construction. We stuck with the clients over a period of many years, sometimes when they really could not pay us adequately.  We grew to really like working with them; they had a small-town directness and clarity we found refreshing.  Our long   involvement with them also meant that by scheme 9, we really got what they were about, and knew what they needed with some clarity. They had also come to trust us, such that when we finally drew the ultimate scheme and it was right on budget, they just built it as drawn.
The acute northern tip of the building
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?

We recently completed another museum complex on the open landscape of Milwaukee’s lakefront, the Discovery World Museum. This building was also built in a clean, white minimalist vocabulary, and was extremely well received here. We were encouraged to forge on with this design direction, which is not common here.
View of the entry atrium
Are there any new/upcoming projects in your office that this building’s design and construction has influenced?

We have been commissioned to work on a reinstallation of the permanent collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum, which will include a modest but interesting addition. The strong success of the Museum of Wisconsin Art has helped to strengthen our credentials in art museum work, and we have other commissions of this type on the boards.
View of the permanent collection galleries
How would you describe the architecture of Wisconsin and how does the building relate to it?

Wisconsin has two important traditions that were of influence in the design of MOWA:
  1. The direct and simple agricultural building sitting in contrast with a verdant green landscape. We can see in Wisconsin today a new generation of agricultural buildings cropping up across the state, buildings that are as iconic as the red barns of a century ago. These new buildings, industrial pig and cattle barns in particular, are often clad in white with a few huge openings for access and daylight, glowing like lanterns at night. These buildings frequently sit isolated in their green landscapes, “machines in the garden” in a new vernacular form. They have an undeniable power and beauty that influenced this work.
  2. The idea of a Prairie Architecture as posited by Frank Lloyd Wright a century ago continues to haunt our state: a compelling set of regional formal ideas that several generations of architects here have not figured out what to do with. The attempt here is to go back to some of the basic formal principals: long horizontal proportions of both the building as a whole and the claddings at a detail level; glass walls as dense screens that allow views but are not transparent in a modernist sense; the idea of “mono materials”: keeping the tectonic palette as minimal as possible; and the opening up of distinct rooms into a flow of partially enclosed linked spaces.
Email interview conducted by John Hill.
Interior of the stairs in the acute point
Aerial photograph of a full scale plan drawn (with field marking chalk) on the site before construction.
Levels 1 and 2 plans with room keys
Building longitudinal section
Museum of Wisconsin Art
2013
West Bend, Wisconsin

Client
Museum of Wisconsin Art
 
Architect
HGA Architects and Engineers

Design Principal
James Vander Heiden, AIA, PE

Project Architect
Peter Balistrieri

Project Manager
Russ Drewery, AIA

Project Lead Designer
James Shields, FAIA

Project Team
Joe Tarlizzo, David Lang, Pao Yang, Ron Burns

Structural Engineer
HGA – Matthew Mikolainis

MEP/FP Engineers
HGA – Mechanical: Steve Mettlach, Jill Schuette, Kevin Pope
HGA – Electrical: Ryan Kannass, Scott Wheaton

Civil/Landscape Architect
Graef

Lighting Designer
HGA – Cathy Hall

Interior Designer
HGA – Jane Dedering

Contractor/Construction Manager
M.A. Mortenson

Exterior Fiber Cement Panels
Nichiha Illumination Series

Glass Curtain Wall
Wausau Metals

Large Format Ceiling Panels
Armstrong "Optima Open Plan"

Site Area
1.5 acres

Building Area
31,000 sf

Photos
Darris Lee Harris

Drawings
HGA Architects and Engineers

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