The Art Institute of Wisconsin
320 E. Buffalo St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Role: General Contractor
Size: 50,000 Square Feet
Architect: Engberg Anderson
The design and build out of the Art Institute of Wisconsin (AI), a school of the visual and practical arts, was a project that required a tight knit and well coordinated team. It had to be in order to undertake the intensive expedited interior renovation of the 1922 P.H. Dye House, an industrial building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And Hunzinger Construction Company and their subcontractors had just 17 weeks to transform 35,000 square feet of space for AI and an additional 15,000 square feet of reworked adjacent tenant space, common public spaces, and building utility/infrastructure space that was needed to make the AI space feasible to begin with.
The design of AI’s space was provided by the tenant’s design consultant, HFS Architects, and was adapted to the specifics of the building by the building owner’s architect, Engberg Anderson, who was also responsible for the design of the public spaces, general building upgrades, and acted as the project architect. The design played to the building’s strengths, mixing modern materials and finishes with the historic industrial character of the building. The interior face of the concrete exterior walls was blasted to expose the original concrete from under layers of paint. Floors required not just leveling, but infilling at long ago abandoned equipment locations. The almost 90 year old out dated mechanical system on the effected floors was replaced. Exterior alterations were designed and constructed to meet the requirements of the Historic Third Ward’s Architectural Design Review Board. These included the opening or closing of windows and louvers in the alley façade and a carefully designed and detailed third floor mechanical mezzanine also in the alley. The result is a bright and inviting interior and a clean straight forward exterior, both of which respect and celebrates the historic character of the building.
The challenges were many, but the entire owner-tenant-design-construction team was up to the task. The first challenge was to create a carefully planned out but readily adaptable multi-track construction schedule that could direct the mechanical and structural upgrades in portions of the basement parking garage and on the 8th floor roof, the alteration of half of the multi-tenant first floor that needed to work around existing tenants and the building circulation, and the complete gutting and build out of the second and third floors, and the life safety upgrades required through out the entire 8 story structure. Add on to this the fact that delivery and exterior staging and lift space was limited due to the project’s location in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward which was made even more challenging as the project occurred during the height of Milwaukee’s lakefront festival season. Festivals at Meier Festival Park (aka the Summerfest grounds) heavily impact the Historic Third Ward with congestion from visitors, traffic, and parking.
Another challenge was to secure long lead items, predominantly mechanical, as soon as Hunzinger had secured the job and before full construction documents were complete. Other items, such as doors, frames, hardware, and finishes, would follow immediately. Engberg Anderson (project architect) and Harwood Engineering Consultants stepped up to continually prioritize and expedite submittal reviews, often in one or two days, and even same day.
Uncovered unknown conditions in the field are always a challenge with existing buildings, and this project had many. It was also an issue of adapting the tenant’s corporate design standards to not only the local market, but also the unique conditions of the building. The difference came in the heavy onsite presence of the architect, the ability of the contractor to investigate conditions in advance, and the ability of the entire design-construction team to think on their feet and provide insightful solutions that did not contradict corporate design standards, had minimal impact to cost and schedule, and no impact to quality.
The result of this team effort was the Art Institute of Wisconsin not only as able to move into their new space on time for the start of fall classes, they actually held their open house weeks in advance of what was normal for other Art Institute locations around the country.
Art Institute of Wisconsin