Posted by Bill Selzer on Oct 17, 2022
On October 14, 2022 Architect George Meyer visited the Elmbrook Rotary Club to talk art and architecture. 
Meyer practiced architecture for 35 years and retired in 2021 as CEO of Kahler Slater Architects. The firm has been involved in many key downtown revitalization projects, i.e. the Calatrava Art Museum, Milwaukee Museum, and Kimpton Journeyman Hotel.
One of the most recent project by his firm, is the renovation of the Warner Grand Theatre, the new home of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Located on Wisconsin Avenue and 2nd St., built by Warner Brother in 1931, it was designed to be a “movie palace” for its patrons, and maintained prosperity for many years. In 1973 the Marcus Corporation purchase the theatre and divided the 2000 seat venue into a 1000 seat lower theatre and a 1000 seat upper theatre. Over the years they kept the décor intact. Unfortunately, the doors closed in 1995.
Commissioned in 2000, Kahler Slater began the design renovation project for Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras new home. Moving to this new venue next to Grand Avenue Mall and the Convention Center will be part of the area rebirth. The renovation project was completed in 2021, at a cost of seventy million dollars, far below the cost of a new concert hall.
One of the key planning elements for this project was the completion of a spatial acoustical study. From the study data, the firm created the theatres remodeled space design. The modifications required to create the best sound quality, patron viewing, venue flexibility, and décor were:
  • Moving the wall behind the Orchestra back thirty-five feet to increase the orchestra area space volume for proper sound mixing. This took six months for set-up, and 8 hours to move this 625-ton wall three feet at a time.
  • Narrowing the space below the balcony to improve the hall sound quality
  • Reshaping the slope in the seating areas to improve patron viewing
  • Providing variable acoustic curtains in the hall that allow to fine tune the music sound quality
  • Adding a projection and lighting area below the balcony, giving the ability to present movies, i.e. Star Wars and Indian Jones with Symphony accompaniment and lighting for the stage.
  • Including stage lifts that allow for orchestra layout rearrangement during intermission
  • Creating an open atrium gathering space with frit glass panes. The fused frit words were names of all the composers the symphony had played prior to moving into the new hall. These panes also cut the heat gain from the sun.
  • Using finish materials that were inspired by the orchestral instruments, i.e. brass and wood
  • Refurbishing the murals on the walls and ceilings. It took one year to clean the soot and accumulated cigarette smoke from over the years. Crews used a mild solvent, cotton balls and q tips.
Today, George is the Chair of the UPAF fundraising campaign to support the performing arts in the Milwaukee. If you have not had a chance to see this beautiful renovation, order your tickets to experience a wonderful visual and symphonic experience. If you have not had the chance to familiarize yourself with Rotary, please check out your local Elmbrook Club meetings at 7a each Friday.