234 S. Water StreetMilwaukee, WI
FROM THE PRA ARCHIVES OF UNBUILT WORK
Occasionally in the life of an architect the major elements of a project – site, building type and owner align to allow the project to practically design itself. 234 South Water Street in Milwaukee was one of those projects.
The site was a very small parcel in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood next to the Milwaukee River. It had been vacant for many years, last occupied by an early 20th Century grain elevator. Due to it’s proximity to the river, the project would require the cooperation of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the City of Milwaukee Riverwalk authority.
The building would be 12 stories with 180 luxury apartments and associated amenities, 4 stories of parking, and a small sliver of retail along Water Street to satisfy City street activation requirements. The tower was “S” shaped in plan, creating roof terraces on top of the parking levels on both sides of the building. A two story Entrance Lobby was located on the most prominent corner at the end of Pittsburgh Street.
The distinctive façades of various shades of orange were derived from the pixels of a highly magnified photograph of rusted metal, signaling the intersection of modern technology and the industrial past of Walker’s Point.
Among the many challenges of designing such a large building on such a small site, including the task of parking 180 cars beneath the residential tower, one would prove to be the downfall of the project. In order to fit the required number of cars and associated circulation, the required section of new Riverwalk would need to be built over the river. Initially, the City of Milwaukee and the DNR agreed that providing an expanded section of the Riverwalk at this location would allow this to happen, but after a change in leadership at the DNR, it was determined that the entire Riverwalk would need to be built on the property, thus removing too much of the site to make the building viable.