Building a Masterpiece: Exhibition Walkthrough

This exhibition is made up of architectural models and watercolors that show Santiago Calatrava’s design process. Calatrava sees architecture as the ultimate art form and considers himself an artist—his buildings marry sculpture, design, and engineering. One of his greatest inspirations is nature.

You will first encounter, in the Baumgartner Galleria, the models made by the architect. Moving back in time in the development of the building’s design (from 1997 to 1995), the models give three-dimensional form to the ideas developed during the design process. Builders broke ground in December 1997, completing the project in June 2001, for a grand opening in October of that year. Details about the building’s construction, along with a detailed timeline, are highlighted on the wall.

On the Museum’s Mezzanine Level, in Koss Gallery, is a selection of watercolors by Calatrava. The architect created these watercolor drawings not only to help him work through his vision for the Milwaukee Art Museum’s addition, but also to communicate his plans to others. Ranging from sails to human forms, they represent Calatrava’s thought process.

Finally, the culmination of the exhibition is, of course, the building itself. Students can compare the many steps in the addition’s creation (the models and the watercolors) with the completed building by exploring the main hall, the gallerias, and even the parking lot, as well as by taking in an expanded view of the Museum from the Reiman Bridge or the Mason Street Bridge.

This exhibition represents a look back at the making of this now-iconic building, and a look forward as the Museum continues to play a key role in the Milwaukee community.