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Architecture Critic Finds New Milwaukee Designs Lacking Originality

Eppstein Uhen Architects
Brookfield real estate firm Hammes Co. plans to move its headquarters to downtown Milwaukee in early 2018. Architecture critic Tom Bamberger finds the new design without character or core values.

Photographer and architecture critic Tom Bamberger has offered pointed commentary and criticism of Milwaukee’s architecture - old and new - as well as on public art and how our green spaces should be designed. He writes a regular column about all of these things for UrbanMilwaukee.com, called In Public.

Bamberger’s recent articles tackle the issue of design and, what he calls, the lack of a good creative process.

READ: Hammes Building An Obvious Mistake, by Tom Bamberger

“By and large [community input] doesn’t create good design,” he says. “What that does is prevent horrible design, which is not a bad thing, but it also prevents really great design.”

However, who decides what makes a design good or bad? At its core, Bamberger says, is the simple act of personal investment.

"What a good design is, is people care about it and they put work into it and think about it,” he says. “Now that doesn't necessarily guarantee a good building, but you at least want people to try to make a good building."

Bamberger says that too often community guidelines restrict design and create a neighborhood without distinction. He suggests new projects should compliment their surroundings, but not have to camouflage into them.

"Almost all the buildings that we love [in Milwaukee] were done despite something, they weren't done because of it," he says. "What you really need in buildings is ego."