Milwaukee County


Milwaukee Art Museum Shoreline and Promenade

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1,900 linear feet of Lake Michigan shoreline and offshore breakwater, 580 meters of Lake Michigan shoreline and offshore breakwater

Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design

“The Milwaukee Art Museum has been extremely pleased with the services SmithGroupJJR provided in the facilitation of a design solution for the lakefront promenade, plaza and shoreline protection.”

—Christopher Goldsmith, Former Executive Director


With its heralded Calatrava-designed expansion already underway, the Milwaukee Art Museum faced an unanticipated challenge: preventing Lake Michigan storm waves from flooding the lobby. The design also needed to preserve continuous public access along the lake without detracting from Calatrava's world-class sculptural statement.

SmithGroupJJR's comprehensive solution seamlessly merges art and engineering. Using detailed physical and computer models, the firm's engineers put the design to the test under numerous storm events. The result combines an offshore, low-profile breakwater and onshore wave protection technology with an overland trench drain and surge pool system to withstand the severe Lake Michigan environment.

By incorporating a regional bicycle trail network, the project was also able to leverage DOT funding. More than a million people now stroll or bike through the site annually, unimpeded and unaware of the vast shoreline protection system underneath the pile-supported promenade.

Related Content

Lakefront Renaissance
The transformation of Milwaukee's lakefront is featured in this Civil Engineering magazine article written by SmithGroupJJR waterfront specialists.