The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.
W61 N617 Mequon Ave, Cedarburg, WI 53012 | p: 262.377.6039
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October 28, 2014

4MKE: Patterns in Practice

For the past year, a group of TKWA-ers (mostly the newer cohort, with assistance from a few seasoned sages) have been studying Christopher Alexander and pattern writing in-depth via a weekly book club. A few months ago, we were offered the opportunity to put our studies into practice by writing patterns for an undeveloped site in downtown Milwaukee, and further, to teach what we had learned to a larger group of creative professionals in the city.

Fourth and Wisconsin

site aerialThe site, a surface parking lot at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, is currently pretty desolate. It is bordered by the Wisconsin Center to the north and Grand Avenue Mall to the east, two large block developments that do not generate a great deal of pedestrian traffic. Michigan Avenue to the south is clogged with parking garages, and Sixth Street to the west is a wide, bare corridor.

In spite of these circumstances, the site has a great deal of potential. If developed thoughtfully, it could become a catalyst for future growth in a neighborhood that sorely needs it.


Historically, downtown Milwaukee looked very different than it does today. Block sizes were smaller and much more walkable (the old grid is faintly visible in our alleyways today), buildings were significantly smaller and more tightly packed together, and the entire area bustled with activity. Streetcars operated throughout the downtown until they were dismantled in the 1950’s, and theaters lined both Wisconsin Ave and 3rd St. Our goal for this project was to envision ways to bring this spirit into the present day.

milwaukee-downtownLeft: Wisconsin Ave (Dave Prentice) / Right: 3rd Street (Milwaukee Public Library)

The Patterns

Over the course of several weeks, we identified a list of issues and solutions geared toward encouraging vibrant growth in the area. Six of these became the patterns we used in our presentation and workshop:







For an in-depth discussion of the site, history, and patterns, you can download the full presentation at

The Workshop

The workshop took place October 24, 2014 at the Creative Milwaukee @ Work 2014 Summit. Seventy participants – all from the Milwaukee area – gathered around large maps of downtown Milwaukee armed with dry-erase markers, and together we worked through each of the six patterns, identifying problem areas and proposing solutions.

4MKE Map WestownBase map of the Westown neighborhood in downtown Milwaukee.
4MKE Map SiteBlown-up map of the site at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

The exercise spurred lots of fascinating conversation, as each person around the tables brought a different perspective and experience of the city. We are very excited about the results, and plan to develop the ideas generated at the workshop further over the coming months.


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