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Madison Children's Museum

The Kubala Washatko Architects

Shared By

A. Hitchcock

Project Name

Madison Children's Museum

Project Status


Year Completed



Madison Children's Museum


  • General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.

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Project Description

From the AIA:

Originally a 1930s department store and then a state office building, the new Madison Children’s Museum is lauded by the jury for its “outstanding repurposing and the absolute whimsy of the roof scape.” Located on the Capitol Square, the renovation of the museum’s new home triples the space of its previous facility, with an additional two floors available for future expansion. Pre-existing structural challenges, such as varying floor heights and placement of load-bearing columns, were overcome by the architect’s design, which opened several floor plates to create multi-story spaces, exhibit flexibility and visual interest. This visual linkage is critical for drawing visitors to higher exhibit levels in the building. The existing roof has been converted into an inviting green roof playscape for family and school groups as well as for museum and community events. A glass retaining wall around its perimeter provides dramatic views of the State Capitol and Lake Mendota. Sustainability is key to the museum’s building, exhibits and operation. Features include daylighting through restored storefront windows, the use of reclaimed local construction materials, rainwater collection and roof-mounted photovoltaic panels donated by the local utility company. The new facility greatly expands the museum’s capacity to serve larger audiences, older children and visiting school groups with a multi-discipline program of the arts, sciences, history and civic engagement. Last fall, the museum was one of five recipients of the IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Services.

Jury Comment: “We like the restraint the architect had for rejuvenating the facades and creating a new museum facility that provides a great series of discovery spaces for kids, culminating on the roof. There was a lot of risk taking at the roof level. We admire the outstanding repurposing of an existing building and the absolute child-like whimsy of the roofscape. What the architect has done is taken a background building and created a building to remember.”

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