Daily Dose: Kinetic Architecture


Quadracci Pavilion Interior; Milwaukee Art Museum

Add to TwitterI took a number of trips to the Milwaukee Art Museum while I was at Luther College and though their art collection inside the building is one of my favorites, it’s the architecture of the museum itself that astounds me every time I visit. The Quadracci Pavilion is the new 2001 addition designed by Santiago Calatrava to look like the prow of a ship. When visitors walk into the museum, they’re greeted by an advancing wall of windows which look out onto Lake Michigan. The colorful glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly enhances the play of light, shadow and color throughout the entryway. Continuing with the naval theme, collapsable wings or “sails” soar out at a dramatic angle from the top of the building. Known as the “Burke Brise Soleil,” this kinetic bit of architecture spans 217 feet and is a wonder to observing folding or expanding which it does every few hours. It takes 3 1/2 minutes for the 72 steel fins to collapse or extend and it’s always over much too soon! The wings can also close if the winds get too strong; they collapse automatically if gusts exceed 23 mph for more than 3 seconds.


Quadracci Pavilion and Burke Brise Soleil; Milwaukee Art Museum

Not surprisingly, my experiences with the Milwaukee Art Museum prompted me to research more examples of kinetic architecture. I came up with fewer buildings than I had hoped but was again taken in by another project: Gestures by Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy. These women’s take on movement in architecture is strikingly different than that of Calatrava. Instead of making the structure itself move, they used motion as the beginning inspiration for the building. Bonnemaison and Macy recorded dancers’ movements and translated those 3D paths into habitable structures. They call their “materialized movements” Gestures.

bonnemaison combo

Gestures by Bonnemaison and Macy

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