The new Madison Children’s Museum by the Kubala Washatko Architects is an imaginative, adaptive reuse project that was completed in August 2010. The MCM now occupies the 1930’s multi-story historic building that originally housed a Montgomery Ward’s department store on Madison’s Capitol Square. The reuse was implemented as a result of a need to expand the museum’s capacity, thereby expanding the museum’s interdisciplinary capacity to serve the needs of its audience. The end result is a creative and cost-efficient exercise that revamps outdated office space and transforms the space into an interactive and dynamic learning environment.
From a square footage standpoint, the occupation of the Montgomery Ward office building increased the museum capacity to three times the previous location with the possibility of further expansion over two undeveloped floors. The additional space was utilized to enhance visitor experience with more exhibits, on-site parking, and a café. However, as is the case with a large majority of adaptive reuse architectural projects, the existing conditions posed significant obstacles with regard to the program and circulation of the museum. The office building had undergone a series of renovations and additions in the 1970s and 1980s, which had fragmented the floor plans and complicated vertical circulation. As a response to these existing conditions TKWA opened several of the floor plates to allow for visual connection, which helped draw visitors through the building and to other exhibits. TKWA cited this visual linkage as one of the most critical elements of the museum’s heralded design.
For the material palette, TKWA specified natural, non-toxic, and locally harvested materials to reduce the environmental impact of the architectural scheme. This approach even extended to post-occupancy issues, including indoor air quality and the institution of green incentives for museum employees. In addition to these programs, the Children’s Museum also includes passive rainwater harvesting, a green roof, and photovoltaic panels to help power the museum. These sustainable technologies are on display for professionals and visitors alike, with the Museum’s “Green Tour Scavenger Hunt”.