Taking a stroll through downtown Milwaukee, it is not hard to miss the nearly 1968 VW sized ladybugs crawling down one of the city’s office building on one side. The Milwaukee Building features three gigantic insects on its exterior. The Ladybug Building is officially known as Milwaukee Building, but ever since 1999, very few people call it that. In an effort to shake off some drab from its office towers, the city approached a beautification bender. This was the birth of the Ladybug Building.
What better way to add to the architectural creativity, zest and appeal of a building than placing giant bugs on one side of the building, right? The ladybugs were incorporated onto the façade as a piece of art, helping to bring stark, yet whimsical contrast to the metal and glass cladding as well as the 19th century buildings all around it. The building’s upper floors have quite some standard office suits, while the ground floor has a couple of night clubs.
The playfully known Ladybug Building is located just a few short blocks from the Milwaukee Public Market, Grand Avenue Mall, and Milwaukee Art Museum on North Water Street. This public art installation of enormous red-and-black bugs offers a lovely, colorful contrast to Milwaukee’s grey skyscraper landscape. Visitors to this area will be delighted to know that they are not the only art pieces featured at this location either. The second floor of the Milwaukee Building hosts a modern art gallery that houses a variety of artworks, including those from Milwaukee’s world-renowned artist Marc Sijan.
John J. Burke, the brains behind this rather bizarre design, came up with the idea for the quirky six ft. long and three ft. deep creatures on the west side of the Milwaukee Building. He is the founder of Burke Properties, the company that manages the Milwaukee Building. A sign-maker created the bugs to Burke’s exact specifications, and Burke even had a say in where they were placed on the building. The lowest ladybug even hangs over a window that was part of Burke’s office before his retirement from the company. Mr. Burke was said to enjoy the view of his red-and-black friends from inside as well as from the restaurant across the street.
The Milwaukee Building’s ladybugs are made of fiberglass, which is both durable and lightweight. They are so easy to handle that they were installed by just three people. Visitors will be happy to know that they can enjoy this unique view at any time of day, with the ladybugs even being lit up at night, directing visitors to the nightclub below. While they caused a bit of controversy among Milwaukee’s art scene, their creator has always viewed them as a public work of art with the intention of making people smile.
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Also visit Pabst Mansion, Milwaukee, WI