There’s still time to improve awkward elements of Milwaukee Bucks arena

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There's still time to improve awkward elements of Milwaukee Bucks arena
© Populous
There's still time to improve awkward elements of Milwaukee Bucks arena
© Populous

Designing a basketball arena is a little like playing the game. Swishing baskets in the first quarter is great, but it’s the finish that matters.

Thankfully, when it comes to the design process for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, we are in a fourth-quarter timeout.

In other words, there’s time for corrections, but defeat is a possibility.

While Populous, the Kansas City-based architecture firm, and local firm Eppstein Uhen Architects have made an almost incalculable number of winning moves in the design of this massive and exceedingly complex project, the recently released designs reveal a number of awkwardnesses, including deadened public spaces and a very clunky back side.

The bold move here is that modern swoop, the dramatic roof that rises and falls over the soaring, glassy entrance. It is meant to evoke, in an abstract way, the fluidity of water — a connection to our lake and river — and the arcing free throws of NBA players.

Tortured metaphors about water and swishing aside, not to mention comparisons on social media to a taco, toboggan or Donald Trump’s sweeping ‘do, it is a daring, modern gesture.

The zinc cladding, a sample of which I held in my hands at Populous’ Kansas City headquarters, has a tough-as-nails grit to it that will be remarkable and unique at the scale of this building. It suits Milwaukee. Concerns about the rust-auburn, matte material making negative “rust belt” connotations are just too literal. […]

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