Wednesday, October 19, 2005

When Modernism Goes Bad - Milwaukee's Amtrak Station and a Plan to Fix it

Late in his life, Mies van der Rohe was asked to describe his typical day. "I get up," Mies replied. "I sit on the bed. I think, 'what the hell went wrong? We showed them what to do.'" It's doubtful he was thinking of Milwaukee when he said this, but that city's 1965 Amtrak terminal is a perfect demonstration of how the principles of modernism could be hijacked by the less talented to create an often dreadful work of architecture, but one that still has its charms. Read about it here.


Anonymous said...

I almost agree with you, except that Eppstein Uhen -- a firm heretofore known for middle-of-the-road neo-historic developer projects -- has somehow defied expectations + come up with a very functional and appealing, maybe even original, design for the station.

I use the station frequently and have some nostalgic attachment to the current Grieb icon, though it is terribly hard to love in its dreary state of disrepair. As you point out, it's the inside that can't be redeemed and so the whole thing must go.

Donald Grieb was a quirky "Tomorrowland" modernist with great ambitions and a knack for winning prominent jobs. For some of us in Milwaukee, he was a reason to be both drawn to and repulsed by modernism. But alas, many of his buildings are gone or going, including the county parking annex, the barge floating atop I-43 freeway that was stripped of its fins a few years ago and is scheduled for its demise soon.

Anonymous said...

milwaukee had two classic railroad stations when I lived there some years ago. the current amtrak station and that which is proposed don't come close to the classic beauty of the former Northwestern and Milwaukee Road depots of days past.