Milwaukee Art Museum, Cudahy Gardens

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Milwaukee, WI
United States
Milwaukee Art Museum, Cudahy Gardens

Landscape Information

The Milwaukee Art Museum Expansion

The last fully realized public commission by Dan Kiley, the Cudahy Gardens provide a forecourt to the museum uniting the city with the Lake Michigan shoreline. Named for philanthropist Michael Cudahy, the gardens are set in counterpoint to both the Modernist War Memorial of Eero Saarinen, its subsequent addition by David Kahler, and the organic Quadracci Pavilion of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Designed as an arrival plaza, the site measures 600 feet long and 100 feet wide, lying between the museum and the city’s grid. The powerfully geometric design segments the landscape into five sloping lawn panels divided by tall evergreen hedges, anchored at either end by a paved plaza each with a 35-foot tall monumental fountain. A three-foot wide water channel bisects the length of the garden with integral mechanized water jets (and night lighting) to create a waist high water curtain. Low black granite retaining walls absorb the site’s minimal grade change of five percent. Both the plant and paving palettes are restrained. Although there are no trees or flowers, a subtle diagonal rhythm is established by the use of contrasting rough-textured grasses in the inclined lawn planes and a fine-textured grass in the outer, level lawns. The garden opened to the public in 1998.