In Milwaukee, Dan Kiley's Cudahy Gardens provides a refined counterpoint
to Santiago Calatrava's sculptural museum.
By David Dillon
The Milwaukee Art Museum has been such a popular success, drawing
more than 500,000 visitors its first year and making numerous Top
Ten design lists, that Dan Kiley's Cudahy Gardens has been virtually
forgotten. That's regrettable because it is one of his best late
works, a subtle commentary on Santiago Calatrava's exuberantly sculptural
building as well as a sophisticated expression of his own minimalist
aesthetic. With enviable economy of means, the gardens provide a
forecourt for the museum, a pedestrian connection to Lake Michigan,
and an extension of the downtown street grida trifecta of
landscape challenges resolved by a single strong idea.
Courtesy James Brozek
Kiley and his senior designer Peter Meyer got involved in the $8.3
million project in 1997 when the museum was already in schematic
design and the trustees belatedly realized that a parking lot with
trees was not setting enough. Hiring an unknown landscape architect
to shrub up Calatrava's building was not an option; museum and garden
had to complement and reinforce each another, which meant that the
designers had to be peers.
Kiley's name surfaced through David Kahler, whose firm had designed the 1970s addition to Eero Saarinen's War Memorial, which forms the northern edge of the site. Kahler knew Kiley's work intimately, including the lovely but unheralded chestnut bosque for the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Milwaukee.
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