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21 years later, Calatrava returns to Milwaukee to reflect on iconic Art Museum design

Every week on Urban Spelunking , Radio Milwaukee’s Nate Imig and OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo dig into the buildings and architectural features that help retain the city’s sense of history while it builds for the future.

In its relatively short history, it has become a defining landmark in Milwaukee. And it’s a case where the architect’s name has informally become synonymous with the building itself — Santiago Calatrava and his 2001 addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. 

The Milwaukee Art Museum is marking the 20th anniversary of "The Calatrava" this year after COVID pushed back the celebration by 12 months. The expansion is known for its mechanized louvers that rise and fall throughout the day — the iconic “Burke Brise Soleil” — mimicking a pelican’s wings when open or ship’s mast when closed. 

To celebrate the anniversary, the Milwaukee Art Museum recently invited Calatrava back to Milwaukee to reflect on his work, receive an official proclamation from the mayor’s office and speak with reporters. Bobby was one of those reporters and got to speak one on one with Calatrava. 

In this week’s Urban Spelunking episode, Bobby shares highlights from his interview, plus more about the process that brought this defining structure to Milwaukee. Listen to this week’s episode, and visit OnMilwaukee for more photos and history.  

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee