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1902 N. Commerce St., #105
Milwaukee, WI 53212
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The lowly becomes lofty

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By Whitney Gould
May 10, 2006

Infrastructure Gets its Due as Awards Honor Excellence in Wisconsin Design

Drum roll, please.

The winner is. . . infrastructure.

The gritty stuff that moves people from place to place and holds cities together took top honors Wednesday at the 2006 AIA Wisconsin Design Awards, given to building projects designed by member architects of AIA Wisconsin, a society of the American Institute of Architects. The nine awards were handed out at the society's 52nd annual convention, held this year in Madison at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center.

Jurors were architects Jennifer Yoos of Minneapolis, Neal Jones of Phoenix and Josh Skelton of Kansas City.

Honor Awards, the society's highest, recognized overall design excellence. These went to two Milwaukee projects:

The Marsupial Pedestrian Bridge and urban plaza. La Dallman Architects. City of Milwaukee, owner. Lunda Construction Inc.

Threaded through the muscular steel trusses of the 81-year-old Holton Street Viaduct, this sleek new footbridge links the Brady St. neighborhood to the booming condo zone along Commerce St. It has a concrete deck, mahogany handrails, stainless steel trim and an integrated lighting system, along with an urban plaza and outdoor theater under the viaduct.

Jurors praised the project for its "detail and thoughtfulness," noting that it "asks us to look at urban infrastructure as interesting parts of our urban situation."

Booth Street Stairs. Vetter Denk Architects. Milwaukee Redevelopment Authority, owner. Zenith Tech, contractor.

This steel stairway, a kind of urban sculpture, connects the Beerline condo neighborhood on Commerce St. with Brewers Hill on the bluff above, using an existing retaining wall. A viewing platform offers panoramic vistas of the downtown skyline.

"This project is architecture as art," the jury said. "It really captures the context of the site and surrounding neighborhoods."

Merit Awards, recognizing excellence in particular aspects of design, went to:

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Chapel. HGA Architects and Engineers. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, owner. Beyer Construction, contractor.

In renovating this 1920s chapel, the architects removed a low, flat ceiling to open up the interior and added natural light by unbricking four arched windows. A slate floor, oak chairs, a black granite font and other liturgical furnishings were all handcrafted.

Jurors praised the design's detailing, lightness and simplicity.

Open air classroom. La Dallman Architects. Milwaukee Montessori School, owner. C.G. Schmidt Construction, contractor.

Located behind the school in a restored prairie, this outdoor classroom is home to art classes, games, drama rehearsals and science projects. Built of steel, poured concrete and slatted wood, with a range of ceiling heights, the space was designed with a child's eye in mind. It includes a large L-shaped sandbox and seating areas along the perimeter.

Jurors liked the "care, spirit and good detailing" that went into the design.

Cathedral Place roof terrace. Louis Wasserman & Associates, architects. Cathedral Place LLC, owner. On the Balcony, contractor.

Built on a tight budget on the 11th floor of the Cathedral Place office and condominium building in Milwaukee's East Town, this terrace transforms the upper deck of a parking garage into a relaxing spot with views of City Hall and the downtown skyline. Curved benches and geometric floor markings in bold, primary colors identify six social areas.

Jurors admired the project for doing "so much with so little." They added, "This project is the little engine that could."

Gundersen Lutheran Renal Dialysis Center. Plunkett Raysich Architects. Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, La Crosse, owner. Fowler & Hammer, La Crosse, contractor.

This 15,000-square-foot outpatient clinic in Onalaska offers a serene setting for patients and staff, using warm colors, exposed wood and abundant natural light. Big windows overlook rain gardens.

Jurors praised the project as "incredibly accessible and approachable."

Milwaukee Public Market. The Kubala Washatko Architects. Historic Third Ward Association, owner. C.G. Schmidt Construction, contractor.

Opened last fall, this year-round venue for local farmers and specialty food vendors is a contemporary interpretation of old-fashioned European markets, using gritty industrial materials and many "green" features, including extensive natural light and sustainable materials.

Jurors liked the building's "good contextual response," energy-saving features, flexibility and bold signage.

Two projects earned special recognition. They are:

The Karen Peck Katz Conservation Education Center at the Milwaukee County Zoo. HGA Architects & Engineers. Zoological Society of Milwaukee, owner. C.G. Schmidt, contractor.

With multipurpose classrooms, gathering space, a conference room and offices, this light-filled center won the jurors' praise for being built on a modest budget, using sustainable design strategies, including local and recycled materials, natural light and ventilation, preservation of shade trees and a vegetative roof to control runoff.

Historic Third Ward Riverwalk. Engberg Anderson Design Partnership. Historic Third Ward Business Improvement District, owner. Beyer Construction, contractor.

Using a conceptual design by New York City artist Mary Miss, the architects transformed a neglected riverfront with green spaces, plazas, lookouts and a wooden boardwalk that celebrates the Third Ward's industrial heritage. Jurors praised its "amazing impact" on neighborhood renewal.

AIA Wisconsin gave its Golden Award, the highest for member architects, to James Gersich of Fitchburg. Gersich, the founder of Dimension IV-Madison, was honored for his work in mentoring young architects, renovating housing for the homeless, designing award-winning projects and advancing the profession of architecture.

The society gave its 2006 Architecture Firm Award to The Kubala Washatko Architects of Cedarburg, citing the 25-year-old firm for its dedication to sustainable, site-sensitive design and a diversity of works ranging from the Milwaukee Public Market and the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan to housing, commercial and civic developments.

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