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Milwaukee Modern: 1963

Circa 1963. "Milwaukee Art Museum (War Memorial Center), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1952-57. Eero Saarinen, architect." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Balthazar Korab. View full size.

Circa 1963. "Milwaukee Art Museum (War Memorial Center), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1952-57. Eero Saarinen, architect." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Balthazar Korab. View full size.


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B.P.O.E. #46

The brown brick building partially visible in the far background at the extreme right is the Milwaukee Elks Club. It was a stately building with large formal lobby, large dining room with dance floor, swimming pool and small apartment rooms for members who wished to live there . The building has since been demolished.

I'm No Expert....

on either art nor architecture. I look at something and either like it or not.

I like this building!

To Honor the Dead by Serving the Living

So goes the motto for the Milwaukee War Memorial. My eighth grade (1955) civics teacher would rant almost daily about the hypocrisy of spending so much to build an art museum that would only be used by the rich. He thought it better that the money be distributed amongst living vets, thereby improving their lot (serving the living) in a more meaningful way. Whatever merit his argument may or may not have had, Mr. Z has since passed into history and the Saarinen building still stands. Have spent many enjoyable hours walking through the various galleries of the museum over the years, my last visit being 2004/2005 (?) for a look at the wonderful Brooks Stevens exhibit.

In 1958 I received a 35mm rangefinder camera for Christmas, and shot many a roll of both print and slide film on the building. The memory of the 1957 World Champion Milwaukee Braves had pretty much faded by 58, and local civic leaders never missed a chance to promote the “War Memorial.”

Saarinen does not deserve the attacks he gets here

I honestly do not understand the vilification that is poured out on this site every time a photograph of Eero Saarinen's work is posted. Saarinen was quite possibly the least doctrinaire Modernist architect who ever lived, and the work he produced in his short life (he died at age 51, very young for an architect) continually presents delights and surprises. Those architects whom I've met who had the chance to work with him remember him as immensely inspirational and seemingly little lower than the angels. The architect Mies van der Rohe reportedly said, "I do not create a new architecture every Monday morning;" Eero Saarinen came close to doing just that. We should honor him for his ceaseless creativity, and Balthazar Korab's photographs of his work, such as this one, offer stunning proof of that.


Saarinen's father, Eliel, was commissioned to design the building after WWII. When he died in 1950, his son took over the project. The War Memorial Center was dedicated in 1957 “To Honor the Dead by Serving the Living.”

Influence for Pixar?

I instantly thought of this wonderful shot from The Incredibles. I would not be surprised if the Pixar guys had this photo as a reference, this film is *very* precise about its details.


Another damn Brutalist Saarinen building. May all the gods (and especially Hestia) save us from more Brutalism.

[Saarinen is not associated with the Brutalist school, and this building is not considered to be an example of that architectural style. - Dave]

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