Architect: Quorum Architects, Inc.
Owner: Wgemas Leasing, LLC
Contractor: Greenfire Management Services, LLC
Now returned as tribal land, The Forest County Potawatomi are utilizing historic German American buildings to serve as the Milwaukee home for the Nation, proceeding to make a Germanic Lutheran college, library, chapel and classrooms into the Milwaukee headquarters of this Native American Tribe. Both buildings were simultaneously restored and updated to current design standards, while still respecting the rich architectural history. This project combined the challenges of restoration, with providing a new identity for FCP in Milwaukee, and making sustainable design decisions that would support LEED certification, and thereby improve the built environment for generations to come.
The two buildings, formerly Albrecht Hall and the Library, were originally built approximately eight feet apart, but the floor elevations did not align. The design solution was to connect these buildings with a modern glass entry vestibule with a multi-stop elevator, which allows for access between buildings. The new entry connector adds a new look consistent with the FCP branding and vocabulary for “new” construction. The buildings were combined to become the Wgetthta [O-get-chee-daw] “Warrior” Building. Through research into the history of the existing buildings and an understanding of the culture of the Forest County Potawatomi, the buildings were thoughtfully adapted to meet the specific needs of the Tribe’s daily business and ceremonial activities.
Extensive exterior renovations were done to stabilize and revitalize the buildings. The existing windows where beyond repair and replaced with new clad wood windows that match existing historic profiles and daylight openings. Original arched windows had been infilled with brick and replacement aluminum windows. The brick infill was removed and new arched windows were installed matching original photographs. Existing decorative cast iron columns between the windows were exposed and restored after removal of aluminum break metal enclosures. All masonry was repointed and cleaned. The masonry parapet on the Library was completely replaced down to the first limestone belt course. All flat roofs were replaced and two new green roofs were created over the entry vestibules. The green roofs can be seen from the interior lobby balconies at multiple floors. All existing interior flat and decorative plaster in poor condition was repaired and restored. New plaster cast moldings were fabricated from the existing plaster details, for areas beyond repair.
Interior design was inspired by cultural heirlooms, elements found in nature, and existing architectural features of the building. One space that exemplifies this is the former Chapel, which was transformed to become the Community Gathering Hall. The existing stained-glass windows were repaired and restored, and the location of the deteriorated pipe organ was adapted to provide assembly room storage space. The pendant lighting was updated; both to be more energy efficient and continue the geometrical “x” motif of the original woodwork and glazing detail. The design team saw the opportunity to find synergies between the building historical detailing and FCP cultural identity to transform the space.