Harley-Davidson Museum; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Client: Harley-Davidson Motor Company

Design Architect: Pentagram Architecture
Architect of Record: Hammel, Green & Abrahamson
Engineers: Hammel, Green & Abrahamson; Graef Anhalt Schloemer & Associates
Contractors: The Sigma Group; M.A. Mortenson Companys
Consultant: Hammel, Green & Abrahamson
Category: Design - Institutional

Located just to the south of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along the Menomonee River, the Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates the rich legacy of the company, those who ride, and their enthusiasm for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Museum, which opened in July 2008, has brought a breath of green back to a derelict industrial site.

Long ago occupied by a salt manufacturing plant, the site has been renewed through thoughtful, sustainable site design. Grading strategies were balanced against the technical limitations of the existing seawall structures to top the site's contaminated soil with fresh earth, giving rise to restoration opportunities reminiscent of the Menomonee River Valley riparian landscape. The Museum's sustainable aspects stretch out into the overflow parking lots, nicknamed as ‘Parking Gardens,' which include a series of grass parking stalls and large planting beds intended to minimize stormwater runoff.

In spite of its freshened appearance, the museum is contextually grounded in the industrial heritage of the area through the use of reclaimed site features and the design of custom elements such as I-beam benches and steel planters. The vernacular of Harley-Davidson inspired the visual design details. Stainless steel rivets were abstracted as a unique design component to create a texture within the site and provide a memorial opportunity for dealers and enthusiasts to mark their connection to the company's history.

From the beginning, the entire site was considered ‘The Museum' allowing visitors near and far to extend their museum experience to outdoor spaces connected by riverwalks, to mingle in a natural setting, and to enjoy the waterfront atmosphere. A public space, the riverfront has also become a popular destination for walkers and bicyclists. This revitalized green space has already become a part of the city's urban fabric-a place for the City of Milwaukee to enjoy for generations to come.