Presenting the 2012 Commercial Design Awards

Despite some gradual improvement, these continue to be challenging times in the commercial development and building industry. Each year since the onset of the recession and the sluggish recovery that has ensued, In Business magazine has not been sure there would be enough quality projects for our annual Commercial Design Awards, but each year Greater Madison (and now statewide) architects, engineers, and others come through, and our panel of judges remained impressed with the quality and value of projects.

In this, our fifth CDA presentation, we present the "Project of the Year" winner – the Chazen Museum of Art – and various category winners chosen by a panel of three judges: Bob Greenstreet (UW-Milwaukee), Mark Fenton (Leopardo Companies), and Geoffrey Hurtado (UW-Milwaukee and previously of Irgens Development Partners in Milwaukee).

Their choices were not easy, but the winners are a tribute to the state of architecture and commercial development in Madison and beyond (one winner, Gold's Gym in the Best Renovation-Retail category, is located in downtown Milwaukee). With that, IB presents the 2012 Commercial Design Awards.


Chazen Museum of Art

Project of the Year & Best Medium Project

Project Credits
Location: 750 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706
Owner/Developer: Chazen Museum of Art and the State of Wisconsin
General contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.
Managing architect: Continuum Architects + Planners
Design architect: Machado & Silvetti Associates, Inc.
Engineers: Graef; Bloom Companies; Ring and DuChateau, Inc.; and PSJ Engineering
Completion date: September 2011
Photography: Anton Grassl/Esto

Offering beautiful new aesthetics for patrons of the arts, the new Chazen Museum of Art is, itself, a work of art that was selected as our "Project of the Year" and the best in the Medium Project category.

Another structure that links the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the broader community, Chazen was built to provide greater access to art, especially after the Elvehjem Museum's collection had grown exponentially, and limited space meant putting many pieces in storage.

Following an initial donation by Simona and Jerome Chazen, this 81,000-sq.-ft. museum addition was conceived.

A component of UW-Madison's East Campus Development Plan, the free museum features a graceful, third-floor gallery connected to existing gallery space via a bridge, forming a seamless, enriching promenade through diverse collections of artwork.

One CDA judge called Chazen a terrific addition to the city of Madison.

"It's an extraordinary building with crisp, elegant elevations, and a beautiful flow of space through the galleries," he said. "Good materials and elegantly detailed."

Its unique features include a stairway formed by a continuous band of stone veneer, interior bronze metal panels that were brought on-site to "weather" for six months prior to installation so they would match the building's exterior panels, and copper-clad vertical light wall monitors with drywall partitions that not only make up the addition's roof scape but also bring natural light into gallery areas without having potentially damaging rays splash onto individual pieces of art.

Another judge characterized Chazen as a "spectacular building" on an urban infill site. "The interiors in some places will take your breath away," he stated.

The addition honors the museum's original Harry Weese–designed building, and a floor-to-ceiling glass mezzanine along the north side of the bridge provides a dramatic view that extends from the new museum plaza to Lake Mendota.

What's more, its exterior site design has extended the university's east campus pedestrian mall, an area that also includes a newly crafted sculpture plaza.

In addition to form, the $43 million project also has function – including 5,000 sq. ft. of flexible, temporary exhibit space that accommodates virtually any type of installation, and new types of learning areas for students and faculty. A 160-seat auditorium for lectures and films, and a larger museum shop, add to its functionality.

Chazen opened in October 2011, and thousands of people are expected to enjoy it during tours, special events like receptions and gallery nights, talks by artists and scholars, educational programs and outreach for school children, and visits by art connoisseurs of all ages.

Chazen Museum of Art wasn't a unanimous choice for Project of the Year, as the UW's Union South received one enthusiastic vote from our judges. However, even that judge lavished Chazen with praise, describing it as "a stunning use of materials that transforms as you move from existing to new."

"A dramatic transformation which naturally draws in the entire community," he added. "The museum itself looks like an art exhibit. It is a world-class building."

Union South

Best Large Project

Project Credits
Location: 1308 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53715
Owner/Developer: Wisconsin Department of Administration
General contractor: CG Schmidt
Architect/Interior design architect: Workshop Architects
Engineers: Graef (structural), Arnold & O'Sheridan (MEP)
Consultant: Madison Environmental Group
Completion date: March 2011
Photography: Skot Weidemann Photography (interior), Mark Heffron (exterior)

Masterful. A model for student unions everywhere. The ultimate combination of beauty and functionality. Those are among the superlatives our judges used to describe UW-Madison's Union South, which they voted as the "Best Large Project" in the 2012 CDAs.

The 313,000-sq.-ft. structure delivers great value, according to our judges. If student unions really are the "living room" of a university campus, as they often are called, Union South might spawn a new generation of couch potatoes.

With its pocket lounges, coffee houses and dining options, arts and cinema entertainment, and 60-room hotel combined with outdoor pavilions, terraces, and a sun garden, it is an ideal site for Badger Bashes before and after football games.

"It's hard to believe they could put so much program space into such a tight site," marveled one judge.

Actually, CDA judges had several reasons to celebrate Union South.

They begin with a modern, sustainable environment with day lighting, and they continue with its pursuit of a LEED gold certification, which requires the reuse of building materials.

Union South was built with local materials such as reclaimed wood from old barns and stone brought from a quarry in Mosinee. That stone is prominently featured on the building's exterior, in the interior Sun Garden fireplace, and in the coffeehouse.

In keeping with the university's Wisconsin Idea, 88% of Union South's deconstructed building materials were saved from the landfill and recycled.

The judges were especially impressed that its architecture was conceived in collaboration with student users, and that local artists were commissioned to add unique Wisconsin design touches. This collaborative process, which involved surveys of more than 10,000 students, ensured that Union South reflected popular desires.

"This is a masterful integration of a very complicated program into a comprehensible whole," observed one judge. "There are exciting interactive spaces, and great use of natural light. There is evidence of a very collaborative program with users and clients groups involved in the decision-making. It's very 'uninstitutional' with a creative use of materials, and then a very muscular elevational treatment to stand out on the campus."

One judge loved the way planners tied in Memorial Union with the placement of painted metal tables on the Union South "terrace," but he offered even higher praise. "The exterior sightlines tied very well together, and the multiple selection of materials mixed very well," he stated. "They took away the institutional look of the original building and replaced it with a socially inviting venue."

Green Technology Training & Enterprise Center

Best Small Project & Best Green-Built ProjectCenter

Project Credits
Location: 1110 Leed Pkwy., Plain, WI 53577
Owner/Developer: The Village of Plain
General contractor: Ideal Builders, Inc.
Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Engineer: Affiliated Engineers (MEP), Pierce Engineers (structural), Strand Associates (civil)
Landscape consultant: Ken Saiki Design
Photography: Mike Rebholz Photography
Completion date: August 2011

Designed as a regional workforce training and business development facility in the green building and green energy trades, the Green Technology Training and Enterprise Center lived up to its billing in the minds of CDA judges, who selected it as the winner in two categories: Best Small Project and Best Green-Built Project.

The 10,600-sq.-ft. project will serve a combination of high school students, recent high school graduates, entry-level workers, displaced and/or undertrained workers, and corporate employees who seek workforce training in these trades.

Our judges feel the center, a long building, creates a powerful dialogue with the surrounding landscape. As the first structure in a new business park established by the local village government, the center is located at the intersection of LEED Parkway and Green Boulevard.

"It's proof that green, sustainable buildings can be architecturally pleasing 100% in meeting the functional needs of the client," noted one judge. "When entering the 'green build' category, it's impossible for me not to choose a building whose sole purpose is to train and educate about green technology, and they did it beautifully."

Its numerous green features include simple, passive elements like green roofs, bio swales, and Trombe walls that absorb winter solar energy and release it back into the building at night.

The center also includes more intensively green elements, like 20-kilowatt photovoltaic solar roof panels and geothermal radiant floor heating. In addition, designers incorporated LED lighting and automated operable windows that interface with the HVAC system to allow for natural ventilation, and used natural and renewable materials such as regional stone, brick, and wood.

Energy costs are projected to be 30% less than a building that is conventionally compliant with the design code.

"This building demonstrates the sustainable features of the buildings of tomorrow," raved one judge. "It is ahead of its time."

Another judge went beyond its green features, complimenting an "elegant use of wood" on the inside. "Nice, simple palette of materials, exposed details, and services – all well integrated into the overall plan," he said.

"It integrates a lot of green features into the building but without losing any of the aesthetic appeal of the architecture," he added. "The green features are quietly but effectively integrated into the design."

Dean Health Orthopedic Clinic

Best New Development — Office

Project Credits
Location: 2501 W. Beltline Hwy., Madison, WI 53713
Owner/Developer: Arbor Gate Development, LLC
General contractor: Ideal Builders, Inc.
Architect: Cogdell Spencer + Erdman
Photography: Imagewerks Studios/Don Kerkof
Completion Date: June 2011

The fully functional and elegant Dean Health Orthopedic Clinic impressed our CDA judges as another example of a health care facility that "gets it" when it comes to the importance of deinstitutionalizing such buildings.

The 14,848-sq.-ft. building consolidates 24 Dean providers located in four separate locations, and offers varying features of orthopedic care – sports medicine, comprehensive physical and occupational therapy, and diagnostic imaging – in one office location.

However, its rich palette of materials is what captures the eye and gave our judges the impression that patient care in a warm, bright, and inviting setting was the primary design consideration.

It starts with detailed interior space that incorporates a window film and wood-metal design in the hallways and a contrast of colors and patterns in the carpet, walls, and upholstery. It continues with space planning that utilizes the exterior windows as much as possible for patients, especially in larger areas for exercise and reception.

The resulting daylight and views serve patients whether they are waiting to be seen by a physician or using the gym and patient exam rooms.
With enough space to house from 25 to 35 patients and physicians, the project impressed our judges, who felt the designers hit the mark.

"Very warm and comfortable space," noted one judge. "It's more of a home atmosphere than a clinic, with great use of millwork, drywall features, and lighting to create a soft, soothing office."

Crowed another judge: "It's hard to imagine this could be done in a commercial building."

Lake City Plaza

Best New Development — Retail

Project Credits
Location: 4108-4120 E. Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53704
Owner/Developer: Boardwalk Investments (Scott Faust)
General contractor: Engineered Construction, Inc.
Architect/Engineer: Dimension IV of Madison
Photography: Chris Joyner Photography
Completion: October 2011

In a period when bank financing is hard to come by for new commercial real estate, Lake City Plaza meets a need for "convenient retail" in the 4100 block of East Washington Avenue.

The two buildings might comprise a modest 12,610 total square feet, and they may have been built for an equally modest budget, but they were designed in "New Urbanist" style with a number of different materials to accent the tenants' spaces and create a distinction between them throughout.

Among its five tenants are Starbucks, Eyemart Express, and Mattress Firm. Combined, they create jobs where they have been hard to come by in recent years.

In demolishing the existing building, the owners and general contractor recycled and later reused doors, restaurant equipment, asphalt, and other finishes. While constructing the site, they added a bio-retention pond to take excess runoff water from the site and parking lot, allowing it to be filtered into the soil on-site versus going directly into area lakes.

The end result is a project that adds much-needed retail outlets and tax base to Madison.

Most of the judges' comments pertained to the use of materials and the way in which the building addresses the street.

"It's a great transformation of the site," volunteered one judge. "Great maximization of usable space, and a nice use of different elevations and materials to differentiate each store, thus deleting typical strip mall architecture."

"Another judge praised Lake City Plaza as "good urban retail strategy."

"It's done with better materials, and it respects the street well," he opined.

Madison Investment Advisors

Best Renovation — Office

Project Credits
Location: 550 Science Drive, Madison, WI 53711
Owner/Developer: Kay Frank
General contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.
Architect: KEE Architecture
Engineers: Siebers Group, Inc. (structural), Quality Engineering (electrical), The Renschler Company, Inc. (mechanical)
Photography: Doug Kozel
Completion Date: September 2011

Listening to the praise our CDA judges heaped on the renovated office of Madison Investment Advisors, it should come as no surprise that it got serious consideration for Project of the Year. In the end, the striking, 11,000-sq.-ft. project was the choice for Best Renovation-Office.

The project not only allows Madison Investment Advisors to consolidate its workforce in one location, it is also designed for 30 additional office staff. Considering how the building took into account the surrounding forest area, spending additional funds for earth retention to save trees that are visible to private offices, and achieving impressive architectural detail with multiple construction materials, recruiting new employees should not be too difficult.

Forms and materials reference prairie idioms prevalent in Wisconsin, as well as agricultural structures made with concrete, wood, and steel.

"Very cool," was the succinct remark offered by one judge.

Many of the building's interior details are exposed, including steel columns and beams, and structural wood. The exterior skin consists of thick cypress wood siding, cement board siding, and aluminum-framed glazing.

"It brings in beautifully the exterior landscape to the interior of the building," noted another judge. "Large amounts of different exterior materials and architectural elements are tied very intricately together without looking too busy or disorganized. Upscale office space without looking gaudy."

With its unique design, the structure offers a counterpoint to the abstract world of financial transactions, a point that was not lost on our judges.

"This is a very exciting building," noted one. "Great use of horizontal materials, and powerful forms, and great use of lighting, particularly at night. It's a great night building.

"Very dynamic and interesting building, with a terrific use of shutters to both moderate the outside daylight but also to provide really interesting shading patterns inside the building," he continued. "Really spectacular atrium."

Gold's Gym at the City Center

Best Renovation — Retail

Project Credits
Location: 731 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Owner/Developer: Compass Properties, LLC
General contractor/Architect: Consolidated Construction Co., Inc.
Interior design: Club Outfitters, LLC
Engineer: Pierce Engineers, Inc.
Consultant: Excel Engineering, Inc.
Photography: Weston Imaging Group
Completion Date: January 2011

It's not often that architects attempt a 43,000-sq.-ft. adaptive reuse of a seven-story building, but the transformation of a former and rather pedestrian office building into a new fitness center represents an exciting addition to downtown Milwaukee.

The structure, built in 1959 as an annex to the 735 North Water St. building, the original home of First National Bank, is located in Milwaukee's central business district and, along with its neighbor, has been rebranded the City Center.

Considering the amount of work involved even before the build-out of a five-floor fitness center – asbestos abatement, new HVAC and mechanical and electrical improvements, elevator upgrades – this was a massive building makeover. The fitness portion alone accommodated a suspended saltwater lap pool and a two-story basketball court.

On top of that was the challenge of adapting the design to a 50-year-old building wedged between two existing buildings, a one-way downtown arterial street, and the Milwaukee River. "A very cool design in a most difficult building to renovate," noted one judge. "Clearly, someone has tremendous vision to do this."

Our judges also were impressed with the exterior upgrades of new roofing, removal of granite siding panels and replacement with composite metal siding panels, decorative stone, and new doors and windows.

Building renovation also required structural improvements to mid-century wood-piling construction, including a seismic retrofit and ADA-compliance measures. Structural modifications and tie-ins to the adjacent buildings were required to redistribute loads, and floor plate and crossbeam modifications were needed to accommodate the pool, valet, and basketball areas.

"This is a wonderful use of an unused building in downtown, a very skillful elevation next to a landmark building," noted another judge. "It's a beautiful renovation and remarkably well done."

Plan Now to Enter the 2013 CDAs

The annual Commercial Design Awards celebrate the best commercial building projects and designs that Greater Madison and Wisconsin architects, engineers, and builders have to offer.

Our CDA judges have been impressed with some of the new and renovated commercial structures being developed here, and they believe Wisconsin's better projects rank with the best in any part of the country.

The May 2013 CDA presentation, for projects completed in 2012, already is in the works. As we learned again this year, outstanding projects can be developed even in a severely challenged economic climate for commercial construction, and we hope to have plenty of new projects to choose from.

Next year's program will mark the CDAs' sixth year, and once again we will recognize a Project of the Year and a first-place winner in several categories: best new development; best new development–office; best small, medium and large projects; best renovation–office and retail; and best green-built project. Worthy projects can be submitted for more than one category, if applicable.

As part of the nomination process, IB will ask for blueprints, floor plans or renderings, and photographs of both the interior and exterior for consideration by our three-person panel of judges.

For entries in the potential "Best Renovation" categories, we ask that photographs be taken at the beginning, during, and at the conclusion of the construction project. This helps our distinguished panel of CDA judges assess the quality of refurbished buildings.

Winners in each award category will be unveiled at an awards dinner in May of 2013 (date and location to be determined), and will be featured in the May 2013 edition of In Business magazine. The Project of the Year will adorn the cover of that magazine.

Our CDA judges are professionally based outside Madison when possible.

IB encourages companies – architects, general contractors, engineers – with projects due for completion in 2012 to contact Events Manager Jessica Hamm ( to keep their soon-to-be completed projects on our radar screen. IB will provide entry forms, nomination materials, and other information to these firms as soon as they are available.

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