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Wisconsin Architect Magazine
Wisconsin Architect E-News Archive: Mosaic April 2009

Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers
Contractor: Gilbane Building Company

On a site originally used as a car ferry dock, this new museum overlooks the Lake Michigan waterfront in downtown Milwaukee. Neighbor friendly, Discovery World houses a children's technology and discovery museum as well as a museum devoted to the Great Lakes, featuring an aquarium and exhibits on maritime history and water resources. The project also includes facilities for a tall-masted schooner and extensive new docks for public waterfront access. The design for the project uses a strategy that connects with existing gardens to create a “Great Lawn,” which brings the city to the water's edge at a new maritime harbor and amphitheater and covers a parking structure.

The long and linear new building mimics the low horizontal proportions of the lakefront and is lifted up on a transparent glass base, which is deeply recessed below a cantilevered second floor. The building is broken down into two parts, with the long bar structure housing the children's technology and discovery museum and the circular structure at the end of the pier holding all water-related exhibits. Interior spaces provide waterfront views and allow the dynamic exhibits to dominate.

The round glass “Pilot House” offers stunning views of both the lake and the city. Sustainable design features include the use of cold lake water for air conditioning, water-retaining green roofs, exterior sunshades, daylighting, high-efficiency lighting and natural ventilation.

Photography: HGA & John Korom Photography


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