Architects Call For Preservation Of Milwaukee's Domes

The Mitchell Park Domes have been closed since February due to structural concerns.

As the Milwaukee County Board considers the future of the city’s Mitchell Park Domes, a national architectural group is urging officials to fix the structures, not replace them.

The domes, which comprise the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, have been closed for about six weeks, since concrete fell from near the ceiling of one of three buildings. On Thursday afternoon, the board approved a plan to install protective netting inside the domes — a temporary safety improvement — and started to look at long-term plans for the dome.

Debate over whether to tear down the roughly 50-year-old domes has caught the ear of the Washington D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation, which advocates for landscape architecture. Foundation President Charles Birnbaum said the domes are a “beloved” marvel of modernism.

“It is a signature iconic building in the very same way that Saarinen’s arch is in Saint Louis, which has a pedigree of going back to the same year,” said Birnbaum.

Birnbaum said St. Louis is raising hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate the arch’s grounds.

Some local and state lawmakers have argued against having only tax money go for repairing the domes, saying there should be a mix of public and private dollars.