Location: Milwaukee, WI
Program: In April of 2022, AIA Milwaukee announced the Emerging Professionals Design Competition which focused on a 2-acre site in Downtown Milwaukee adjacent to the Wisconsin Convention Center. The competition objectives included plaza design, pavilion site that engaged the street/sidewalk and the streetcar route, development of a transit-oriented mixed-use building(s), parking and branding.
A team from GCA responded with:
Holbrook Square received its name from Walter A. Holbrook, a Milwaukee Architect who designed a four-story Richardsonian Romanesque building for the local Y.M.C.A which stood on 4th street just south of Grand Avenue. The building stood on the site until the late 1960’s. Soon after, many of the surrounding buildings were demolished to make way for what is currently there, a large parking structure and parking lot.
The initial design process began with the creation of patterns. Best described through an issue/ solution statement and accompanying diagram, these patterns are void of stylistic preferences and personal tastes. By stripping the patterns of any preconceptions, the focus is placed on the underlying “why” behind a project. Once there was a better understanding of the issues, solutions can start to evolve through the design process.
On the northwest corner of the site sits a pavilion with a café located on the main floor where patrons can stop in for a cup of coffee. The plaza and square outside offer a variety of seating for one to sit and enjoy their coffee at any time of the day. At the pavilion, you can begin to ascend the boardwalk that leads you to a series rooftop garden with views of Downtown Milwaukee.
Along the west edge of the site is a mixed-use tower. The first floor is divided by a pass through which connects 5th Street to the site. The southern portion of the first floor is an art gallery for local artists whereas the northern portion is dedicated to restrooms and a bus shelter. The protected bus shelter has an all-glass façade which helps riders see the arriving bus without having to wait in the cold. The second level is dedicated to a public outdoor terrace which overlooks the square below and can be accessed from the building or through the boardwalk. The remaining floors are a series of high-end apartments with four units per floor with each unit having floor to ceiling windows with great views of downtown. The high finishes, amenities, and direct access to a public green space will make these units an exciting place to live.
The Hop (streetcar) cuts through the site along the southern border. There, a covered waiting station allows riders to wait for The Hop. The waiting station directs its views north where a grove of trees has been planted to allow a soft separation between the square and public transportation and provides riders with a more enjoyable view while waiting.
The three buildings create a courtyard scheme with a large square in the center. The terracing breaks down the large space into smaller, intimate, and usable spaces. During the day, the square can be bustling with a farmers’ market on the hardscaped plaza. Afterwards, you can enjoy your local goods up on the terraced lawns. At night, the space can transform for a movie night or a concert for the community.
The GCA entry won First Place in the design competition.
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