This Striking New Building Is Opening in Wisconsin

The Pritzker Military Archives Center – designed by legendary architect Helmut Jahn – will house thousands of artifacts.

Have you seen the giant red-accented glass building on the side of I-94? A little south of Kenosha in Somers, it’s pretty hard to miss with the bright exposed beams and glinting walls of glass. 

If you’re wondering what’s up with that striking structure (and you didn’t read the August issue of Milwaukee Magazine), then here’s what you need to know. It’s the Pritzker Military Archives Center, which recently completed construction after almost three years and is set to open to the public in the beginning of 2024.

The center held a media preview event on Wednesday to unveil the space. The Pritzker Military Museum and Library was founded in 2003 by Colonel Jennifer Pritzker in Chicago, first as a repository for her extensive personal collection of military artifacts. In the two decades since, it has received significant donations and greatly expanded its scope, outgrowing its storage space in Chicago, which led to the construction of the new Somers archives center.  

The PMAC building was the last design by Helmut Jahn, the legendary architect behind buildings such as the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, who died in 2021. 

Photo courtesy of Pritzker Military Archives Center


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“His vision was always that this building needed to be rough and tough like a piece of military equipment,” said Philip Castillo, the executive vice president of JAHN design studio. “This building looks exactly like we had envisioned.”

The structure shares design elements with classic tanks, and the look was built in homage to the amphibious personnel carriers used during World War II, notably in the invasion of Normandy. The wide glass walls include UV protection to keep displayed materials safe, and the sunny atrium lies above a vast underground storage facility that can house hundreds of thousands of items.

Currently, the archives include around 65,000 books and 40,000 artifacts and materials spanning hundreds of years of military history. The items moved from the Chicago storage location are in the process of being inventoried and placed in the new collection now.

Once open, the center’s front space will include rotating and permanent exhibitions from the collection, and PMML members will have access to a reading room where they can consult the records. The outdoor space will also be open to the public, including a winding walking path with 5,000 dogwood trees planted along the way. Of the center’s 51,800 square feet, 9,400 are open to the public.

“We are an evolving organization that started from, first of all, my hobby to now, it’s becoming a public collection,” said Pritzker. “This building will extend [PMML’s] ability to educate and inform and provide a place where both citizens and soldiers can learn about each other and their important roles in our democracy.”

More Photos:

Photo courtesy of Pritzker Military Archives Center
Photo courtesy of Pritzker Military Archives Center
Photo courtesy of Pritzker Military Archives Center



Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.