I enjoy the process. Seeing the progress. That's why I like looking at artists' studies for paintings. It's why I like hearing unreleased demo versions of songs I enjoy.
Lately, I've been been noticing buildings drawn by the same hand that share similar features. Sometimes, architects work in a distinctive style that runs through their work (think Calatrava, for example). Other times, they might be maximizing their time and output, altering a similar design for another project.
I like to think, though, that sometimes they're working out ideas, first on paper, and later in brick, wood, stone and steel. Tinkering until they "get it right."
This weekend, when I passed the Notre Dame Hall on the School Sisters of Notre Dame campus on 131st and Watertown Plank Road in Elm Grove, I gazed up at the stepped gable and pointed it out to my kids, who have previously gaped at the similar gable on the Harnischfeger House on 35th and Wisconsin.
Both were drawn by Eugene Liebert. The former was built in 1899 and the scaled-down version for a residence followed six years later. I can't say whether or not Henry Harnischfeger was a fan of the gable and requested it or if Liebert, having used it successfully in a religious building, wanted to see if he could make it work as well in a private home.
Regardless, it's a distinctive feature that makes each building jump right out at anyone passing by.
On a subtler note are two churches built the same year (1892) by Liebert and his then-partner Herman Schnetzky. They are St. Michael's Catholic Church on 24th and Cherry and Trinity Evangelical Church on 4th and Meinecke.
Look at the central sections of the facades as they soar up to the crosses atop the tall steeples. The general design of the towers is basically the same, though there are some clear distinctions.
Some features are nearly identical, like the shape of the steeple roof and the gables up there, with semi-octagonal turrets on the corners. Others are similar, but different. At St. Michael's, a clock face is above the louvered belfry apertures. At Trinity, where the entire tower has been telescoped down, the clock sits within the louvered section.
Below that, at St. Michael's is an arched colonnade, but in the same spot on Trinity, there is simply a brickwork hint at the same feature.
The two churches look like siblings, albeit one in stone (St. Michael's) and one in cream city brick (Trinity).
There are also Schnetzky's nearly twin schoolhouses, Walnut Street and 5th Street Schools.
Many of their differences may reflect divergent budgets. And, more than a century later, I'm happy the congregations had different architectural needs. It allows us to see how an architect can create multiple beautiful buildings based on the same basic ideas but adapt them to suit a specific project.
And our landscape is that much richer for the variety.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.