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An architectural installation in Estabrook Park

UWM students bring “balance” to the Milwaukee River Greenway

December 15, 2020  |  Topics: featured artist


The curious little suite of shelters that you see here appeared in Estabrook Park on December 5. It is one of 34 such “interventions” that make up a project called “Walk the Line.” Sarah Aziz, an innovation and design fellow at the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning, conceived the project, which invited the students to explore the entire 110-mile border of the City of Milwaukee. 34 groups of students then were assigned sites along the border and tasked with creating interventions addressing a variety of urban social issues.

The artists constructing "balance."
The artists constructing “balance.”

Alana Danielle Dunne, Benton Troehler, and Anna Ganser are responsible for this site. They were aided in the full design process by their professor Monika Thadhani, an adjunct professor at UWM and Founder and Principal of MoNa Architecture Planning and Design. Here, in the artists’ own words, is the story.


a site-specific intervention

Project Description

This site is located in Estabrook Park just off of Capitol Drive and Estabrook Parkway.

Just a short walk from nearly six bus stops as well as free parking makes this a prime location for community engagement. Along with substantial access to public transportation, a county bird watching trail runs right along this stretch of land, bringing a host of new patrons to enjoy this site intervention.

"Little Free Library" pod.
“Little Free Library” pod.

This specific site was chosen because it sits at the intersection of two paths, which conveys a merging of not only people, but thoughts, ideas and knowledge. This, we felt, was the perfect space for families, friends, and even strangers to meet and exchange those thoughts and ideas while still maintaining a safe distance from one another. Each pod structure is set up to be completely interactive, with one simply being a place to read and relax on one’s own, another an active “little free library”, and the final being a place for people to leave notes for one another!

A pod for leaving notes.
A pod for leaving notes.

This project is part of an architecture studio class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Our site is just one of 35 temporary installations around the outskirts of Milwaukee. Each team was assigned a general site area where we were tasked with completing a site analysis, sketching a wide variety of ideas, making small physical models, as well as draft construction documents and construct the final built project!


When we were first assigned Estabrook park I remember thinking that there were not many places to sit and enjoy all the nature around me. I knew that the location of our project should be a place for people to relax and get away from busy Milwaukee. We picked the site that our project was built on because it was at the intersection of two paths, so we knew it would be heavily trafficked. We also noticed how close it was to the river. When we were first picking the site, all the leaves on the trees were still on the trees blocking the view of the river. However, fortunately, when we came back to build the project, all the leaves had fallen and you could see the water and hear the peacefulness of the river flowing by.

One of my favorite parts of this project is that most of the materials that were used for constructing it was recycled. Some of the wood we obtained was cast off from a construction site because it was bent or warped. Much of the interactive parts of the project we got from Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. This helped us stay within a strict budget allowance, as well as the time constraint.

Many people have seen our project and feedback has been positive. Our hope is to keep the pods up for as long as possible so that people walking along the path have a place to relax next to the river.

We’ve entitled this project “balance” because each of the three pod structures is based in an equilateral triangle. When we were choosing our site, the triangular space shaped by the paths running along it was most intriguing and inspired our choice of site and motif—triangles. The triangle is often considered the strongest shape, which aligns with the idea that our community has had to be strong and alter its whole life foundation in these past few months. The bases of each pod are equilateral triangles, signifying balance—an attempt to find a new balance in life as the world has shifted and changed so much.

From left to right, Benton Troehler, Anna Ganser, and Alana Dunne.
From left to right, Benton Troehler, Anna Ganser, and Alana Dunne.

For more about “Walk the Line,” go to a recent story in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. For the [balance] project website, click here.

Alana Danielle Dunne, Benton Troehler, and Anna Ganser are students in the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning. All images courtesy of the artists.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of posts in The Natural Realm showcasing the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, go to our featured artist index. ~ Eddee Daniel, Preserve Our Parks.