Sunday, June 01, 2003

The Winged Blog.

The Milwaukee Art Museum elders commissioned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to design a new building for them that would, among other things, attract people to come look at it. It worked exactly that way in my case. When I set out for Milwaukee last weekend, I had it in mind -- the museum with wings. "I want to see the new museum with wings," I said to Yuriko. "Don't worry, I don't plan to drag two kids around inside. I just want to see the outside."

(Probably the museum elders were thinking I'd buy a ticket and come on in, but if they want me to do that, they might consider setting up a spiffy monitored play area for Lilly, along the lines of the one Ikea has.)

Officially, the stories-tall wings are called "Brise Soleil" (Sunscreen), and they adorn the south addition to the museum, which is along the lakefront. Must sound more elegant in French than "Sunscreen," which most English-speakers are going to associate with SPF numbers.

It was worth driving 90 miles to see. When we went downtown to take a look at it, last Sunday afternoon, the area was lightly populated but not eerily vacant as some downtowns become on Sunday. There are a couple of good perches from which to contemplate the Brise Soleil: from a raised plaza (parking underneath) directly across Lincoln Memorial Drive, which is connected to the museum by a stylish pedestrian bridge, for one; or from the War Memorial building to the north, a view that has the advantage of excluding that '50s vintage memorial building, which may be noble in sentiment but is ugly. Either way, the new museum is framed by the blues of Lake Michigan, and the full expanse of the ornamental wings is clearly visible.

When the museum closed at 5 p.m., so did the wings. Yuriko saw it. I was en route to our car and back to fetch the forgotten camera. When I got back, I looked at the structure and thought, something's different. The wings had closed up something like the way butterflies' wings do, with both of them pointing more or less straight back. I wish I had seen them move, but seeing them in a changed position so suddenly was almost as remarkable. Yuriko said they made a gradual, but perceptible, motion.


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