Architect: Johnsen Schmaling Architects
Owner: Mandel Group, Inc.
Contractor: Greenfire Management Services
This mixed-use development combines an indoor rock-climbing gym with 46 small apartment units on an urban brownfield site at the northern edge of downtown Milwaukee. A simple four-story volume, the building’s exterior materials – weathering steel, accentuated by fiber concrete panels, aluminum and glass – reflect the site’s industrial history and the influx of young professionals interested in the urban environment. The modular apartments take advantage of expansive views of the adjacent community green space and the Milwaukee River basin. The 60-foot high gym space accommodates a pair of vertical glass walls that effectively advertise the climbing activities on the inside. The exterior of the gym’s windowless north wall is an articulated cadenced plane organized by a series of oblique aluminum fins that create an animated vertical texture. The fins are spaced by horizontal light strips, with their green acrylic lenses adding a splash of color. At the top, a five-foot continuous clerestory provides the gym with natural light throughout the day and the neighborhood a softly glowing beacon at night.
Jury Comment: “This is a beautifully articulated and sited building. It is wonderfully detailed and very minimally expressed, with one window leading to the next and one vertical material leading to the next. The architect was in control of their material, knowing how to manipulate the parts to reinforce and play off one another as necessary in the different parts of the building. The architect was able to squeeze a tremendous amount of effect out of what most likely is a minimal budget.”
Photos: John J. Macaulay