The Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor, Santiago Calatrava designed the Quadracci Pavillion at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). The pavillion’s highlight is the mechanical brise soleil which extends to a width of 217 feet.
The French words Brise Soleil translate to “sun breaker” in English, and then into architectural lingo meaning permanent sun-shading structure. At night and during bad weather, the brise soleil folds down to shelter the pavillion.
Since 2001, MAM’s brise soleil has become a graphic symbol for Milwaukee. The first time I visited MAM, the striking sun breaker reminded me of massive sails on a tall ship or the wings of a ginormous phoenix. More than a decade later, it makes me think of an extraterrestrial space ship or the tail of a skeletal-white whale. This is what happens when you move to California.
Interestingly, Calatrava also designed the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Terminal (PATH) at Ground Zero. In The New York Observer, some Manhattanites said the wing-like structure is reminiscent of a large rib cage, or a stegosaurus. According to Fast Company, Calatrava admits to some biological inspiration in his design and is known for keeping the skeleton of a dog in his office, a gift from a former veterinary student and friend.
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Photos courtesy of William Lesko.
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