Eero Saarinen's Milwaukee War Memorial Center, winner of a 1955 P/A Award.
Library of CongressPrints & Photographs DivisionBalthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress Eero Saarinen's Milwaukee War Memorial Center, winner of a 1955 P/A Award.

The jurors for the second P/A Awards, for the 1955 honors, set the tone for all subsequent juries by agreeing that their task was to identify “advance, or points of departure,” rather than “mere competence, or points of arrival.”

One project representing such a “point of departure” was Eero Saarinen & Associates’ War Memorial Center for Milwaukee, Wis. Saarinen was widely noted for his sharply different approach to each of his commissions, and here he opted for right-angled forms executed in muscular, exposed concrete. His proposal responded to its setting on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan with rectangular volumes cantilevering out 30 feet in three directions from hefty columns that surround an open, central court. While the courtyard and the cantilevered blocks accommodated the war memorial and meeting rooms, the two-story podium below the court provided new quarters for the Milwaukee Art Museum in spacious galleries that opened to lakeside terraces.

The citation-winning design was completed in 1957, and the building was enlarged in 1975, when the museum floors were expanded toward the lake.

In 2001, the museum completed a larger addition southward along the bluff, designed by Santiago Calatrava, Hon. FAIA, which included modest new gallery spaces, along with a lobby, café, and gift shop. Calatrava addressed the museum’s desire for its own visible identity, after decades of near invisibility in the War Memorial podium. He raised a conspicuously sculptural volume at the far end of his addition, which is seen by some as a worthy complement to Saarinen’s work, and by others as an ostentatious rival.

1955 P/A Awards Jury
Edgardo Contini
Charles M. Goodman
Walter Gropius
Morris Ketchum
Paul Schweikher