Greater Milwaukee Foundation

A transformation to help make a great city even greater

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

When the Greater Milwaukee Foundation moved its offices to an historic industrial campus anchored by an old brew house, it took this opportunity to intentionally design the message it wanted its new headquarters to convey to the community. The Foundation, well known for its financial stability, wanted to create a welcoming environment where Milwaukee representatives of all walks of life could gather and brainstorm ideas for the city’s future together. As a result, the Foundation’s headquarters needed to personify the aspirational message that, by working together, Milwaukee citizens could create a Greater Milwaukee where all can achieve their potential and make their dreams come true.

The Foundation teamed up with Kahler Slater to tell the story of its vision for a Greater Milwaukee by using simple, elegant, but budget-sensitive design elements in its workplace to remind both staff and visitors of the Foundation's mission. Milwaukee's most recognized building material, Cream City brick, provided the canvas for the overall design. Oversized, translucent photographs of Milwaukee residents send the message that Milwaukeeans and the city itself are tied together in their shared mission for creating a strong community. Even simple, everyday aluminum mailboxes located in one area serves as a way to encourage Foundation employees to socialize near an iconic "neighborhood" gathering spot – the home mailbox. Typography drives the mission message home in a variety of ways. The entry space features the phrase, "Greater People," in oversized lettering on the walls. The workspace "Greater Mission." The conference room is labeled "Greater Community." The conference room also features three drop-down walls, each containing a significant portion of an inspiring poem. When all three walls are down, the entire poem is revealed. In the Foundation's employees' workspace, the mission statement wraps around the walls in such a way that, depending on the vantage point, employees can see the entire statement or only the most powerful words from their workstations. The final design not only supports increased interaction with the community the Foundation serves, but it also serves as a daily reminder to staff and volunteers of the Foundation's mission and community focus.

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