Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Maybe Karl Kopp Was Right

I criticized him for letting a historic building rot, but he’d planned a stunning replacement.

By - Jan 7th, 2016 01:56 pm
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The Barnes Foundation building in Philadelphia, PA is example of the style of work done by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

The Barnes Foundation building in Philadelphia, PA is example of the style of work done by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

Back in December I did a column about Karl Kopp’s historic building along the Milwaukee River, questioning whether he deliberately let the J.L. Burnham Building at 100 E. Seeboth fall apart. I’ve since learned additional information that provides another, quite interesting side to this story. I’m indebted to a knowledgeable reader, Bill Kissinger, who alerted me to this.

I reported that Kopp had intended to tear down the Burnham Building back in 2003 and build a brand new condo development, only to have the city come forth in February 2004 and designate the building a historic one that should be preserved. I was not, however, aware of what a stunning building Kopp intended to build. He had hired an internationally admired firm, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to create a six-floor, “glass-covered building framed on three of its four sides by pre-cast concrete walls,” as Tom Daykin and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported back in 2003. “The idea, Tsien said, is to create a garden effect with the river and the glass.”

The building was intended to be very high-end, with a restaurant on the first floor, offices on second and condos above that. The top two condos were expected to sell for $2 million apiece.

“After having the land for 20 years, I thought we’d do something special,” Kopp told the paper.

Whitney Gould, then the paper’s architecture critic, was blown away by the proposed building, describing it as “a bold slice of modernism, with a T-shaped expanse of stone facing the street, wraparound corner windows, a transparent parapet jutting up from the roof and a glass curtain wall overlooking the Milwaukee River. From the waterfront, the views of the downtown are spectacular.”

“Williams and Tsien, who are husband and wife, are best known for their design of the American Folk Art Museum on Manhattan’s W. 53rd St.,” Gould continued, “a stunning sculptural icon clad in a white bronze alloy; it won the 2002 Arup World Architecture Award for Building of the Year. That Milwaukee is now able to attract architects of this caliber suggests a heartening openness to innovation in a city long associated with heavy Germanic buildings and their imitators.”

Take a look at this page of buildings created by Williams and Tsien and you, too, may be blown away. It would have been quite a coup for this city to have them build a signature building at a location that has since been redeveloped into a wonderful part of Milwaukee. Doug Weas, whose Weas Development was to serve as developer for the building, says the proposed building “could have been really special, almost like another Calatrava for Milwaukee.”

Gould was clearly torn by the issue. The Burnham building, she noted, “has badly deteriorated. But with its arcaded windows (now filled in with glass block), rhythmic corbeling and other Italianate flourishes, it’s a charming part of a group of commercial and industrial buildings in what was a thriving business hub between roughly 1858 and 1885.”

Gould judiciously quoted notable observers on both sides of the issue, some favoring the newer building, some wanting the Burnham building preserved. Doug Quigley, who runs the Clinton St. Antiques Centre on nearby S. 1st St., was in the latter group and blamed Kopp, for “letting the property deteriorate.” As I noted in my story, Ron Roberts of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Services, believes the roof might have been leaking since before Kopp made his announcement to tear the building down in 2003.

Gould, though, came down in favor of change. “I, for one, would miss this little artifact, warts and all,” she wrote of the Burnham Building. “But I have to admit that the potential replacement looks appealing enough to make the sacrifice defensible.”

I would link you to the story, but I cannot retrieve it from the Journal Sentinel’s historic archive, no matter what key words I use. Speaking of history, it’s lamentable how difficult it can be to find the newspaper’s older stories. (Gould sent me this link from newsbank.com to the story.) That’s all the more true in the case of Gould’s work: her passion and bracing clarity on architectural issues are still missed today.

As Weas recalls it, Peter Park, then the reigning planner at the Department of City Development, favored the project, but by February 2004 Ald. Marvin Pratt had just taken over as acting mayor, and city leadership was in flux. “The timing wasn’t right,” Weas recalls. “There were a number of historic preservation people who strongly opposed it; it didn’t have a chance.”

It’s quite possible Kopp had let the building deteriorate even before the historic designation was slapped on the building, as he was simply using it for storage. I think I was too hard on him in my original story. And I must say, it would be wonderful if he followed up on his plan of 2003 and decided to build something truly special along the river.

Meanwhile, there is a broader issue here that transcends this one development. While the city’s historic buildings are a key part of Milwaukee’s unique charm, the city’s action in this case meant that a fantastic-looking project by world-renowned architects did not get built. There is a danger, in cases like this, of being too dogmatic about history, and thereby sacrificing architectural greatness. I don’t have the answer as to how to balance such issues. Nor did Gould. But this particular situation seems exactly the sort that smart leaders should take into account in determining how they handle historic preservation.

26 thoughts on “Back in the News: Maybe Karl Kopp Was Right”

  1. Stacy says:

    Paul Valery, “The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.”

    Brendan Gill, “Even the most sympathetic feats of restoration carry the taint of an embalmment.”

  2. Joe says:

    I don’t understand this article. Your first column (and my own, here: http://www.thesqueakycurd.com/custard-king-kopp-kills-historic-walkers-point-building/) is a question of whether or not Kopp swindled the city by knowingly letting a historically-designated building deteriorate. This article, where you now claim maybe you were too quick to judge, is solely based on now knowing that a famed architect was going to be behind the proposed replacement.

    That has nothing to do with you original column. Kopp could build the most beautiful and iconic building in Milwaukee and have it universally praised, but that wouldn’t take away his apparent willful destruction of a historic landmark to do so. The ends do not justify the means. Stick to your guns.

  3. Tom Bosworth says:

    Swindled the city? Odd concept when applied to his own property.

    In any case, I remember well that Kopp was going to put up a landmark in place of an old derelict. At this point, if I were he, I’d be fantasizing about getting the rustiest old Quonset hut within 500 miles, moving it to the site, filling it with hazardous waste, and walking away.

    When I was done fantasizing, I like to think I would contact architects of Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s caliber. The site has fantastic views up the river. The more floors, the more people who could savor that view from their homes.

    Bruce Murphy, thanks for revisiting your thoughts about the issue. Whethor one prefers the restoration of a mediocre but old building or prefers a modern landmark, Kopp’s original plan deserves respect. As does he.

  4. Sandy says:

    Bravo. A lot of reporters and publications wouldn’t own up to a potential mistake. If we had more of that from politicians and news outlets, we’d be better served.

  5. judith ann moriarty says:

    Bruce: The proposed developer Doug Weas developed the 1522 Building on Prospect Avenue.

  6. Isaiah P says:

    It was actually quite easy to find, literally 4 minutes of searching, once you know what the project name was. To compare it to the Calatrava for its potential architectural impact on the city is a stretch, it’s interesting none-the-less, and a welcome reprieve from what has been going up in our city lately. Hopefully, he will develop something as, if not more interesting. For your viewing pleasure or curiosity, depending on you design tastes.

    http://archidose.blogspot.com/2004/01/100-seeboth.html

  7. BT says:

    I’ll second Sandy’s great comment regarding the integrity that’s long gone from most “mainstream” news sources today, which has led to an exponential rise in “alternative media” sources that of course required the internet to come on board as well, but is also a very mixed bag with many excellent sources coming from all points of the political spectrum, as well as many terrible sources that seek to do nothing but deceive people. I’ll add that while I often disagree with Mr Murphy’s personal political views I’ll take that difference between us along with his excellent, “don’t just rewrite the press release but actually investigate the story” reporting any day over the mess that the JS is now and haven’t found much better in any other local source. (and although I’m not a frequent JS comment poster, I’ve managed to work his name and usually that he can be found here at urban MKE numerous times when the JS totally blows yet another story, which I’m sure they just LOVE!!! Haha, oh well maybe I’ll stop if they improve from their current level of “pure crap” a far as reporting goes. The only big scoop they’ve had was Bice’s leak from the Joe Doe’s, which I thought was a serious crime, but come on like that’s ever going to get attention from the DA’s office!)

    With that out of the way, I’ve got a mountain of experience in doing restoration and modernization work on older residential and a handful of commercial properties, which I LOVE doing and feel lucky to be able to have built into my full time legitimate business for nearly the last 4 years now, plus another 10 or so years prior to that on a part time basis. (1930’s and earlier, all the way to built in 1867!) I take very seriously the value of the proper restoration, especially exterior restoration of any older home or commercial building, assuming it was well built and that is many times not at all the case as you’ll find many important structural details (much of what I’ll reference are things you’d find in a residential home since I’ve got far more experience in that area) that due to the many changes in both building code and general standards used by any professional builder, carpenter, etc these days that would be laughed at for being so far under what is now required by code when building anything. 2×6’s for floor joists? Pretty common in many old homes, especially smaller ones that were decidedly middle class housing. If you attempted to do that today when building a new home you would be laughed at and kicked off of the job by any pro and the building inspector would have a fit!

    Besides the much lower construction standards, the various details that go from very nice to downright incredible on so many older homes and commercial are so cool and what makes them worth saving, but I can guarantee you that unless you’re truly well experienced in what a true, top quality renovation project costs and how much more it will cost when you have damage or other major issues with an older property, I’d bet my last dollar that given ample time to research and come up with an estimate for the total project cost, it will #1 be FAR HIGHER, like at least double and probably more than your original quick “guesstimate” and #2 even your own well researched estimate will also be FAR BELOW what the actual cost and estimates from experienced pros will end up being. This can become a huge problem with all sorts of awful unintended consequences if people who don’t understand the potentially massive costs of such projects, costs which will far exceed even the wildest dreams of what the finished project will be worth as a salable property will be worth. Then you’ll end up with these unintended consequences such as areas that are so ripe for redevelopment and great improvement being passed over for years or decades and left to rot until the then inevitable arrival of the bulldozers.

    Add in the unfortunate fact that so many older buildings have fallen victim to the strippers (no, not scantily clad dancers who take huge stacks of singles to the bank every Monday, I mean the criminals who’ll in some areas here will run into homes and commercial prop the first day they know place is now vacant and strip out any easy to reach pieces of first copper, second aluminum and then ANY other metals that can be turned in at a junk yard OR who’ll often take easy grabs from OCCUPIED homes and commercial such as the incredible copper gutters that used to be so common in areas such as on the fancier homes in the general area surrounding Washington Park, Sherman Park, etc and are now nearly impossible to find. On a great home I renovated on one of the most prestigious east side streets, the copper gutters weren’t stolen but due to a major lack of upkeep and things like ice dams, etc had been ruined to the point where three separate copper contractors all said there was no way they could possibly repair them and I asked a friend who’s knowledgeable on them but not in the biz just to be sure I wasn’t being forced into new ones when these could be fixed as I did not know and he agreed completely.

    Now, as far as copper gutters go, these were quite simple compared to some that are just LOADED with all sorts of details and extras that all equal huge extra cost, but not these as they were quite simple and for a 4000 sq foot home, a large one but NOT even close to the scale of many commercial ones and the bill was over $20,000 and one estimate was nearly 50 grand!

    So, even with the expanded tax credits now available, even with my own bias towards older buildings and keeping them when possible, I’d urge every armchair historic preservationist to truly learn the normally sky high costs of proper preservation, which unless you’re talking about creating in the end what will just be a big, unused “prop” of a building, there will be MANY, MANY unseen and extremely costly improvements needed to bring the place up to spec structure and safety wise (check out what it costs to retrofit fire sprinklers, often also requiring a new, much larger water main lateral as well, its another massive expense) Please try to have at least some clue as to what it truly costs to do a truly period correct project before screaming and yelling and demanding that we freeze time building wise as chances are very good you’ll once again just cause an area to have NOTHING in the way of progress made and another area that then is just passed over by the people who are able to do something truly great, had they not had their hands tied by people clueless as to what they’re screaming about!

  8. Paul Miller says:

    A bit of a side note: The lauded American Folk Art Museum ran into a bunch of financial problems and defaulted on its construction debt and needed to move back into its old space. It sold the fancy new building to cover the debt, and the facade was taken down and stored. Not sure exactly what happened to the inside. But it’s an interesting reminder of how a “starchitect” building is not a guarantee something will last.

    Links: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/nyregion/american-folk-art-museum-to-stay-open.html and
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/nyregion/folk-art-building-will-be-demolished-but-its-facade-will-live-on.html

  9. M says:

    BT, Despite the higher costs, do you have knowledge of actual percentages that may be offset by historic tax credits?

    It sounds like it could be beneficial to somehow make fact-based, neutral information available about preservation pros, cons, cost and considerations. The late Paul Jaubovich, a city preservation architect, wrote some books that may be relevant.

    It sounds like the lack of information may cause distortions of what’s at stake–on both sides. For example, Bay View is one of the cities oldest neighborhoods with many, many historic buildings yet their are only a handful with a city historic designation. Why is that? Could there be an aversion to getting a building designated, possibly due to unwarranted fears?

    There are values of preserving buildings and neighborhoods that are not always easily quantified. Also, their are brilliant architects working on restorations as well as new buildings. And plenty of cookie new stuff that defies good taste and design basics. And yes, some old buildings too are ugly.

  10. Marie says:

    This article and some comments address “starchitects” including Calatrava and the firm originally commissioned by Kopp.

    First, I love the Calatrava for many reasons, including that I really enjoy being in the space as well as viewing it from various vantages and in different light. It also has some major design flaws including that in many respects functionality was sacrificed. I also love the very understated new Shields addition, especially because of how well it solved so many functional problems of simply navigating and viewing art at MAM.

    That said, let’s forget about the quest for “another Calatrava.” Instead, let’s insist that buildings should function well and also look pleasing and not screw up the scale and character of neighborhoods. That should not be too much to expect.

    In some ways, museums are often expected to have an inspiring, even spiritual, quality about them. I’m fine with that. The purpose of some buildings, esp. quasi-public ones like museum, cultural centers and churches, includes fostering a sense of awe. But starchitecture can be too much about the fame and glory needs of their creators and not the needs of users. Of course, schlocky hulks can ignore users as well, and a pretty building at least offers that.

  11. Hereiam says:

    Not sure why proposing a great new addition to the Milwaukee cityscape absolves him of wilfully allowing a classic gem to wear away.

    Today, but even more so in 2004, there is a glut of open space in the Walkers Point area where Mr. Kopp could have placed his building. If that was his intent, why not simply sell the historic building, and use the funds to buy an appropriate vacant site?

  12. Kent Mueller says:

    Bruce, the truth may lie somewhere between your first and second articles on Karl Kopp and the J. L. Burnham building, but I’ll give Karl the benefit of a doubt. Hopefully he’ll do something great with the site.
    Back in 2003 when the debate between preservation and development was going on, I sounded out the preservationists and Karl Kopp on a possible compromise — moving the building one block south to a vacant lot on the northwest corner of 1st and Pittsburgh (where the nightclub Rumours stands now).
    My wife and I went out in a light drizzle with a 100-foot tape measure to the lot and the building and discovered that it would fit IF it was turned 180 degrees, so the arcade window façade would face 1st St. and the west façade, which had charms of its own, would be highly visible on Pittsburgh. Placed right on the lot line at the sidewalks, there would be just enough space between it and the building directly north for a driveway and a 3-4 car parking lot in back.
    The preservationists were dubious but willing to consider it as a last resort. The preservation guidelines have a strong prejudice for restoring on site unless there is no other choice but demolition. It would have preserved the building at least, and have the added benefit of filling an ugly hole in a nearly solid block of historic buildings.
    There was a very real question of whether the building COULD be moved. Was it too fragile, even in 2003-4, to withstand a move? Two complications were the amount of strapping required to prevent it from turning into a pile of bricks at the first turn of the lift, and turning the building at the end of a short, one block move.
    Karl was noncommittal on the phone but not closed to the idea. When we saw him some nights later at Elsa’s (characteristically bussing tables, a very hands-on businessman), I introduced myself and he told me he had decided to do nothing for now and hold off on development. That’s how things stood until the recent “dust up”.
    It was a wonderful dream for a moment. Buy an historic building for a nominal amount, get it out of the developers way and fill in a vacant lot. It would have been a permanent home for my art gallery, KM Art, then in rented 2nd floor space on 1st between Pittsburgh and Oregon Streets, where my slogan was “Difficult to find, impossible to park!”. I wasn’t heartbroken, any number of things could have gone wrong, and far more development ideas, everywhere, go unfulfilled then ever get done.

  13. Dudeman2 says:

    I liked Mr. Murphy’s original article about Seeboth Square and I Like this article. Love the humility. Keep up the good words!

  14. BT says:

    M-Its not even close, you get back 40 cents on the dollar, 20 from feds, 20 from state and that’s a tax credit, better than a deduction, but you’ll either need a massive taxable net income (which Kopp may have considering his various operations although I know the three custard places are co-owned with a partner so no clue on what his returns may add up to, multiply by tax rate and there you go, is there enough tax? I’m almost certain you can carry forward on them, but if you’re not Karl Kopp who I assume has a very high income, what good is a tax credit you chip away at for years that still leaves 60% of cost on you? You also can often sell these credits, but won’t be anywhere near dollar for dollar)

    My main point though were the unintended consequences, when a board of people clueless to the costs as well as ramifications such as any old building like that will certainly have pillars everywhere, not exactly layout friendly for restaurant bar type business, when we’re able to build without that today.

    As far as whoever mentioned building on some vacant lot someplace else, do you get the idea of excellent location and its incredible value to such a service biz? That is an AWESOME spot for what he wants to do there, its A1 prime for that use. Just because there’s a lot open on 37th and Burnham or whatever isn’t quite the same!

    I agree with Marie’s comment on the MAM Calatrava addition and for all of that build up, plus just obliterating the original budget and hounding not only the heavy hitter donors but even small donors over and over, after all of that I remember clearly going there after opening and it was during the Chihuly exhibit and admittedly, I’m not up on the exact who’s who of living artists, but after being nearly shocked by the tiny sq footage of actual exhibit space, later that night was at a get together that was a bit quieter and certainly included people higher up on the art chain than myself and after my comment about really appreciating the many bright and bold colors in his glass was met with the response “it won’t be long no doubt before he puts a line out for Walmart!” “Oh at least give him credit to take it to Target!” came from another, only then did I learn of his penchant for some will say shameless self promotion and when one of my older brothers who is actually an artist as well as a collector simply scowled at the mention of the word Chihuly, then it was complete and I admitted as much, maybe I’m just drawn in by bright and shiny stuff with lots of color, which you will find very little of in some historic buildings, but much more in others.

    I just don’t always agree with the “you can’t even think of changing a damn thing nothing must ever change in this entire area” attitude of some, who I’m quite sure let their often obvious and ridiculously overwhelming bias against anything built to make a profit, thus furthering capitalism get the best of them. My biggest proof of that was the lack, or total lack of any outrage over the abortion UWM put up as their 4th dorm tower. Besides not matching and looking like a cheap knock off of the other three towers, which are seen by many as great examples of “brutalist” design, not a peep that I heard from the architecture school, but alas UWM is not a profit seeker. ( yet like ALL higher Ed these days, still murders kids finances and likely hated the tuition freeze from who again?? Oh that’s right, Scott Walker.)

  15. BT says:

    Or one more thought, in this dust up on Brady, which I’ve NO personal connection to, I can certainly understand the position of “not ANOTHER bar here” and hoping for some magic wand to drop a rainbow in font of the hardware store and magically appears a small retail shop that unlike anywhere other than a place like the Magnificent Mile, where Prada or whatever will gladly pay huge $$ per foot in rent, thus a situation that occurs NOWHERE here, if they want to do that along with the Harvard alderman ( must not have been a Harvard business grad!) and along with it comes the unintended consequence of slashing these owners retirement funds by a huge amount, then lets see how you feel if say you had half of your retirement invested in say some mutual fund that invests very safely and I’m able to pull off a smear job that somehow wipes that fund out, zeroes it out! (I know its quite implausible but just play for a bit here) and I’ve got some reasoning such as they invested in Dale Chihuly who takes advantage of people drawn in by bright and shiny stuff with many colors like myself, which I find abhorrent and feel completely justified in destroying this mutual fund!

    Oh, you had scrimped and saved that money or it is meant to pay to care for a special needs child after your deaths? Well that was a nice idea but too bad, all of us Chihuly victims feel better now, so hopefully the kid figures something else out! Sounds pretty crazy to me to destroy someone’s lifetime of hard work since you feel one way on something and we don’t need to save every last old wreck either, provided something nicer goes in its place and I think that’s the case here!

  16. Marie says:

    BT,
    I don’t dispute your numbers, but if you build new, which may cost less, you still have to pay full freight for that building. So the credits probably do serve some projects well.

    I’ve been told that where old buildings work well is in places where they may need updating but can be very affordable at some point in the cycle. Small biz can spruce it up, have fun with it, even as renters, whereas building new is often more expensive or has higher rents. Maybe there’s some middle ground again that helps keep old buildings productive without requiring huge capital for fix-up.

    Let’s not weep just yet for the Brady Hardware owners. It’s rumored that a restaurant deal is in the making, and thus they will likely close this deal and do just fine.

    But what of the people who are retirement age and have lived all or part of their lives on or just off Brady and now they can’t sleep at night with having the noise of revelers till 2 or 3 AM? I know one of those homeowners. There are always conflicting interests.

    A UWM historian has written about how when MKE lost its manufacturing base it turned to alcohol-based entertainment to fill that gap. That’s a pretty big hole to fill with taverns and yes, it has helped that all the riverfront condos were built and filled up–and that Milwaukeeans love to drink. But entertainment still seems to be a driving vision for MKE, maybe it’s working, hard to say. But it does seem the market will get glutted, Can Downtown MKE create its own Las Vegas Lite success story, without the casinos, and without strong year-round tourism?

    Maybe it will work if we can draw enough residents downtown. Economist Marc Levine has disputed that entertainment really has any lasting economic impact beyond a small area.

  17. mbradleyc says:

    The old building was nice, but it wasn’t that nice. That site is like no other in the city. The Couture would look good there. The design that they were looking at in 2003 was okay, but not worthy of such praise in my opinion. Definitely unworthy of the site.

    Go for the moon here. This is once in a city’s lifetime.

  18. Andy Umbo says:

    Nice retro 1960’s look to the building, exactly NOT what Milwaukee needs…

  19. Ben Tyjeski says:

    We Milwaukeeans love our old buildings, don’t we? It easy to get super concerned since so many demolished buildings have not had a positive story afterwards. Bring it on Kopp, let’s see it! Nice article.

  20. Mike says:

    I once asked an old friend of mine who was fanatic about old buildings if he was ever in favor of tearing down an old building. He said, yes, when they’re going to build something better there. That is a standard that is rarely met because of the very nature of discussions of development proposals. Every new building is going to be modern, no faux historicism, an asset, catalytic. And guess what, the old buildings are what give Walker’s Point it’s character. New modern buildings can be great, but often, they could be anywhere. Unless modern respects the place, and not just the time, it will tend toward generic.

  21. M says:

    Mike, you expressed something profound about what gives a neighborhood “character” and ultimately increases property values. Often a sense of historicity does that or at least through creative repurposing of buildings so they retain personality. Character is reinforced as more and more buildings in an area transition, whether through paint and TLC or appealing repurposing. It’s up to new buildings to not wreck that ambience. Jane Jacobs says that successful neighborhoods have a pleasing blend of old and new, which seem complementary rather than at odds.

    One big issue is tension between developers’ desires to make the highest possible profit and neighbors’ uses and values including the role of aesthetics, human scale and such. It’s not that old buildings are better and always worth saving but whether someone will invest in making a building that truly is better than what’s there. It can cost less to crank out a cookie cutter design and not worry about the impact of the building on those who will come in contact with it. Impact on the neighborhood may not be seen as the developer’s problem except on potential sales and rentals.

    It would be good to have more public discussion about these issues in general and not just about specific projects. By the time a project is on the table and presented publicly, too much time and money has been invested–so a quick approval is the goal. Neighbors may sometimes have a chance to demand some changes, but those may be minor or false choices. Citizens need to assert goals and visions and values that are proactive, not just reactive.

    Some conscientious developers want their projects to achieve a triple or quadruple good bottom line to benefit people in the community and overall sustainability. If citizens can band together and promote such values and show the benefits of that approach to developers, then the discussion changes and there’s room for both healthy neighborhood preservation and productive development.

  22. Yance says:

    Milwaukee can always attract architects of the highest caliber, if Milwaukee developers have the vision and the MONEY. Nobody really thinks that Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects decided to work on this project pro-bono because Milwaukee is cool all of a sudden? OTOH, movie star architects like Gehry can dazzle with exotic renderings of buildings that are functionally useless. Surprisingly, in Calatrava’s home land of Spain, where there are some of the best modern and post-modern architecture in the world, his works tend to be less than perfect in the real world. His works “look” pretty even though many of the buildings in the City of Arts of Sciences in Valencia are already falling apart.

    Architects and developers with vision tend to see the possibilities of the existing built landscape and know how to use that to create something amazing. One of my favorite buildings in Madrid is the Caixa Forum which built a post-modern building around the shell of an old 19th century industrial power plant in an area of the city that wasn’t industrial. The resulting building leaves a reminder of the neighborhood’s history mixed int a new hugely popular space that amazes every visitor. It is an idea which would have worked as seamlessly in Milwaukee as it did in Madrid. It would have been if Mr. Kopp would have that level of vision and imagination.

    The arguments which start with, “It was his own property…” seem to miss the fact that a person’s own property are just a piece of a larger whole. Fantasies of endless personal freedoms aside, the reality is that if we want to be a piece of a community we have to adapt to that community, not vice versa. At least that is what I learned from Fox News – “You wanna live in my country, you better speak my language and worship my Gods.”

  23. Marie says:

    “Architects and developers with vision tend to see the possibilities of the existing built landscape and know how to use that to create something amazing.”

    Agree with Yance’s point. The retrofit Dohmen has done with a blah old building in the Third Ward. That was all about having vision for a building’s potential, not preserving something for its distinctive or historic character. Revamping that building however did result in more architectural variety in that neighborhood. Another owner/developer could have torn down a lackluster building and put up yet another 6-story boring box that looks just look all the others in the Third Ward.

    http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2014/12/19/friday-photos-dohmen-moves-to-historic-third-ward/

  24. M says:

    Here’s commentary that directly addresses issues in this article and thread–about preservation of buildings and places that people love, architecture and development. The issue is what the author thinks will be an eyesore for Charleston, a city that has long been a model for how to preserve character while growing, being guided by good urbanism. It says Charleston was the first city with a historic district…

    architecturehereandthere.com/2016/01/11/charleston-sc-westedge-providence-wexford/

  25. Marcus says:

    Great job Milwaukee, but we also must do something about the crime in our inner city and help support organization like http://www.clubkids414.org open a community theater and help #StopTheViolence
    Donate a building or funds for our current location so we can remodel the space and help at-risk kids.
    #Clubkids414 #Milwaukee #Charity

  26. BT says:

    Don’t forget Frank Lloyd Wright also has been accused more than a few times for buildings that were so much “all about the design” that they were on a functional level, very poorly designed for a myriad of reasons, from the people living or working inside of them to be able to be functional on an equal level with any bland as hell looking suburban office box, for their upkeep and cost to keep as usable buildings, but never having had to have worked or lived in one I can’t say myself. Quite sure the cool factor of the exterior or even interior being aesthetically wonderful would wear quickly if it never dipped below 85 degrees inside all summer long or got above 55 this time of year, or if the company who’s paychecks I counted on was being drained due to the ridiculous upkeep costs due to a poor design.

    I also thought F Dohmen Co’s re-imagination of their new, non Germantown located HQ was great, but when you’re talking historical districts and usual “no way in hell” to everything boards that unavoidably seem to run them, throw all that out the window its 19th Century or nothing MF’er!! I don’t like being shackled to the distant past and you’ll find the often well meaning but sometimes power mad board members (fresh from finally being booted from their condo HOA board for being nuts) don’t know what the First Wisconsin tower (now US BANK in case you missed the sign!) and the former Sears Tower have in common, other than being tall and under 100 miles apart, but they’ll still screw up any good plans you have for some old wreck of a building, simply for being in their little feifdom.

    Marcus, I know of $100 MILLION and rising fast being wasted on what millennials couldn’t care less about that could’ve funded a hell of a lot of what you’re talking about and you’re ideas likely pay back nice dividends while instead we’re buying a cash hungry albatross to nowhere!

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