Key Milwaukee

January 2012

An A-Z visitors guide to Milwaukee Wisconsin. Sponsored by Key Magazine Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Page 7 of 63

Key COVER FEATURE Lighting project rejuvenates Milwaukee architectural gems AT THE TOP of the list ofMilwaukee's contemporary architectural landmarks formore than half a century are three structures known to residents simply as TheDomes. Located south of Interstate 94 at the 27th Street viaduct, the unique horticultural domeswere refurbished and lighted three years ago, turning theminto a 24-hour landmark and spurring a tripling of attendance. Designed for theMilwaukee County Parks Department byMilwaukee architectDonald L. Grieb, theMitchell ParkHorticulturalDomeswere started in 1959, two years before completion of the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower and 40 years before the Calatrava addition to theMilwaukeeArtMuseum. They replaced the originalMilwaukee Conservatory,which stood on the site from1898 to 1955. The 85-foot, beehive-shaped domes are recognized as the first of their type ever built. Famed inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller traveled here to challenge the architect's use of his patented geodesic concept, only to be told by the architect that the structureswere conoidal, not geodesic. 8 Sandy Folaron, director of the domes since 2007, says that in their heyday the domes and surrounding gardens inMitchell Park attracted more than 600,000 visitors annually. But attendance had fallen dramatically by the time she arrived and, in fact, there had been discussion of closing them. When she stepped into her newposition, Folaron was bothered by howthe domes disappeared as a landmark at the end of each day.With the encouragement of ParksDirector Sue Black and private financing froma group of philanthropists, the county installed a programmable LEDlighting systemthat led to spectacular light shows and 24- hour visibility and repaired damages caused by an industrial explosion near the domes. The contents of the domes has not changed, but the refurbishing and a subsequent improvement in the lobby connecting themhas led to a dramatic increase in the number of activities. TheDesert (Arid)Dome contains aworld-class collection of cacti and succulents, completewith a oasis of palms and grasses.As part of the lighting program, a fullmoon shines overhead on evenings when theDomes are open for events.

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