Ennead Architects and Kahler Slater have unveiled the design of a new 200,000 square-foot museum building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Set on a 2.4 acre site in the Haymarket neighborhood, the design is based on four core principles: community, nature, education, and the preservation of the museum’s vast collections. The project is expected to break ground in late 2023 and open to the public in 2026.
The team wanted to design a structure that reflects Wisconsin's rich natural history, while also creating a new community anchor and an educational destination for learners of all ages and backgrounds. The museum is also designed to be a hub for research, continuing the institution’s legacy of scientific contribution, that has been making a national and global impact since 1884.
The architecture is inspired by the ecological histories of Milwaukee and greater Wisconsin, reminiscent of the geological formations contained within Mill Bluff State Park, as well as the region's diverse landscapes formed by the movements of water.
The building consists of a concrete and glass structure, wrapped with an exterior texture that mirrors the ancient sea stacks present in Mill Bluff State Park. The structure will also have rounded corners that reflect the erosion and weathering of the glacial landscapes that shaped much of Wisconsin and evolved over time. The convergence of Milwaukee's three rivers: the Milwaukee, Kinnickinnic, and Menomonee, is reflected in the museum's interior spaces, whose three distinct entrances converge into one dynamic gathering space.
We wanted to create a space that gave the feeling of wonder, like what we experienced throughout our trip around the state, as we saw these exceptional landscapes and met so many different people with stories to tell. There was much more to see and understand beneath every surface. We thought about this layered experience of discovery when designing the building. We wanted to make a museum that would reveal more with every visit and let people take their own journeys through the space, led by curiosity. -- Jarrett Pelletier AIA, Ennead Architects Associate Principal
Located on the corner of Sixth and Vliet Streets, the new museum will include two gardens, one near the entrance of the museum and one on the rooftop, which will house native Milwaukee flora in an effort to reintroduce them into Milwaukee’s urban environment.
The five-storey museum will feature immersive and interactive exhibition spaces of permanent and changing galleries of multi-sensory exhibits, designed by Thinc. The first floor will consist of a naturally lit common atrium for visitors to gather, similar to a community center. The fluid layout of the building will allow visitors to preview different exhibition floors and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at collection spaces and objects that have typically been concealed behind closed doors. The museum will also include a planetarium, office and lab spaces, classrooms, dining area, and collections storage. On the rooftop, a permanent exhibition and a butterfly vivarium, a signature exhibit piece will be on display.
Ennead Architects' team will be the "Design Architect" of the project, Kahler Slater will be the "Architect-of-Record", and GGN will design the landscape.