Harley-Davidson Museum
General The Harley-Davidson Museum is a multi-building complex on a newly reclaimed industrial site near downtown Milwaukee. It celebrates the history, culture and art of the 105-year old company, while creating a place for spontaneous gatherings and rallies that are the touchstone of the riding community. Site On a peninsula surrounded by water, the HDM site has a connection to Milwaukee’s industrial past and remarkable proximity to its downtown. Our guiding tenets for the site development were: Integrate the site back into the city Respect and reflect the site’s history in the new buildings Allow full access to the water Plan for future development From these basic tenets, we developed an urban design that essentially restored the lost city grid to the site. The grid connected the site back to the surrounding city and gave it a scale and “grain` that felt like the city. Including Riders The community of Harley riders is most enthusiastic and at home during rallies at sites like Sturgis and Laconia. These events concentrate a great many riders in a small network of streets creating an enormous public outdoor event. The HDM, we proposed, should learn from this organic arrangement by having an informal and a formal component. We dubbed the outside component the Museum on the Street and it became an organizational element in the design of the museum, the counterpart to the formal museum inside the main building. Factory The riding world refers to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company as “the factory.` Images to inform the look of the museum lean heavily on the history of factories, rather than the history of museums or of Milwaukee commercial architecture. Factories, visually defined by one basic style and with a single functional purpose, seemed especially appropriate precedents for the development. A large open space (the factory floor) lined with mezzanines (the factory office) and featuring the kind of process silos (the towers) that we had been looking at as precedents, began to develop: they resonated with the sense of HD as a factory; the contrast of large open space and more defined space was a good mix of big and small exhibition spaces; relatively simple to build, they embodied a sense of straightforward design; they seemed honest and even a bit understated. Materials Rather than design a decorative skin for the building, we used the design logic of the motorcycles for inspiration. The building had to reflect the honesty of the motorcycles in design and pride in the parts exhibited. Inside and out the structure is simply and honestly expressed with I-beams and columns, exposed gusset plates and cross-bracing to stiffen the frame. The hot-dipped galvanized steel is an honest expression of an industrial process. It is weatherproof and permanent, not shrouded or concealed. The infill materials are tough and traditional finishes in a simple palette used on all the buildings: Black and gray polished and stained concrete for floors Clear glass for vision areas, black opaque glass for effect in the lobby White double-layered insulated polycarbonate sheet for diffused light Glazed black brick for solid areas of important volumes, highlighted with unglazed brick Gray corrugated and enameled steel for secondary areas Orange corrugated and enameled steel for entry areas and stair/elevator towers Black louvers outside screening the upper towers, silver ones inside controlling the light Galvanized and blackened steel for counters, trim, railings and other elements Black, white, silver and orange: the colors of HD rendered in a robust set of building materials. To emphasize the rally space created by the intersection of 5th and Canal, we created a broad orange stripe on the four important blocks. The orange concrete makes the celebration clear to visitors as it adorns the otherwise typical concrete streets. The Buildings in Detail The composition of the buildings is a complex set of interactive parts made to look simple and inevitable. Approaching from the west, the building massing rises in steps from 15’ to 80’ culminating in the iconic towers and especially the open tower. The skyline beyond is integrated into the building’s own skyline. Covered spaces line the walks around the buildings creating a gracious sense of entry, protection from the elements and a sense of depth. Louvered spaces above the towers conceal the central chillers for the conditioning of all the interior spaces. For the open tower, a four-sided logo was suggested by Willie G. Davidson, chief styling officer and grandson of the founder. He said “the engine is the jewel in the frame of the HD motorcycle` and this piece of signage is the jewel in the frame of the museum. Other monumental signage is built of the brick wall material rather than applied to the building. The company name and the founding date respect the strong sense of place HD has in Milwaukee. The main museum façade is created to glow like a lantern at night, with very little internal illumination, and as an icon to be seen from a distance. The massing of the A and R buildings employ large masses “slipped` off of one-story bases. The overhangs create covered areas for service or dining and the massive brick volumes contain important spaces. Like the buildings, the two bridges reveal their structure on the outside, holding the glass to the interior. There are a number of large scale “V’s` in the building structure, mostly as a result of the exposed bracing. V is also a description HD uses for its “v-twin` engines. The lobby of the museum is entered through 17-foot-high sets of doors: first in a rusted finish, followed by a polished set. The rear wall is a black glass plane, reflecting the space. The colors subtly reconstitute the black, silver and orange colors of the museum materials.


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