Location: Waukesha, WI
Status: Completed Summer 2022
Size: 2,000 sq. ft.
Originally constructed in 1956 as a fire control area for the United States military’s nuclear equipped Nike missile program, Hillcrest Park was one of eight Milwaukee-area Nike missile bases and built to deter and protect Milwaukee’s large manufacturing infrastructure against a Soviet bomber attack that thankfully never came. However, by 1971 under the terms of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, more resources needing to be allocated to the Vietnam War, and the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles most of the Nike missile sites around the country had been shut down and in 1972 under the Legacy of Parks Program the base was granted to the City of Waukesha.
With the exception of the former administrative building, barracks building, and the support structures for the radar antennas most of the traces of the site’s former military use were wiped away when the base was turned over to the City of Waukesha. Seeking to expand the awareness and usefulness of the park the City of Waukesha Parks, Recreation, and Forestry targeted the largest of the remaining support structures for the radar antennas to be converted into a new open-air park pavilion. However, decades removed from the heightened tensions of the Cold War, the existing structure had fallen into disrepair through years of neglect and vandalism.
Sited atop the highest point of the park, the pavilion is approached via a new gently sloping concrete sidewalk flanked on one side by a sandblasted concrete wall. Signage is mounted at intervals along the wall to inform visitors of the park’s historical significance. The existing structure is topped with a new steel and wood framed circular roof form clad in stainless steel tiles that gives off the impression of a flying saucer. A tapered circular void on the underside of the new roof structure terminates into a skylight that provides views to the sky above and pays homage to the site’s former use of watching the skies. New lighting on the underside of the roof illuminates the structure at night. Assemblies of galvanized steel angles and metal wire mesh form screens that define the edges of the pavilion.
The careful selection of new materials and respect for the existing structure results in a second act for a once deteriorating, eerie Cold War relic as a park pavilion and an educational piece for future generations.
Want to learn more about this project?Contact Brandon