Every major building project in Milwaukee during the last 20 years shares a common feature: the input of Robert Greenstreet, dean of UWM’s School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP).
The pervasive Greenstreet has played a role in the selection of architects for projects ranging from the Milwaukee Public Market to the Santiago Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Within the school, his influence is just as evident, with a scholarship fund in his honor that is supported by gifts exclusively from alumni.
So it isn’t surprising that Greenstreet has been awarded the 2013 Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).
Greenstreet is in his 35th year of teaching and his 22nd year as SARUP dean, making him one of the longest-serving architecture deans in North America.
While the recognition affirms his long career, the real professional payoff for Greenstreet is the ocean of architects he’s trained – and what those generations of students have contributed to the built environment as practitioners.
“I am always struck – and humbled – by the impact of our faculty, students and alumni on the skyline of Milwaukee and beyond,” he says. “Pretty much every building you can see here in the past 40 years has SARUP’s fingerprints on it. In terms of making a better city, a better world, the school has made its mark.”
While he points with pride to alumni, the alumni are pointing right back at him.
Minneapolis architect Theresa “Terry” Olsen credits Greenstreet with playing a pivotal role in bringing the Spanish “starchitect” Calatrava to the city. People who come to see the museum addition also can see works by UWM-educated architects.
“I’m proud to claim UWM SARUP as my alma mater and Bob as my dean – both then and now.”
Greenstreet grew up in London and received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Oxford Polytechnic University. He moved to the United States in 1980 and recently became a U.S. citizen.
As Milwaukee’s chair of city development, Greenstreet consults with the Mayor’s Office on design and development, but also coordinates the activities of SARUP with the city’s projects in a “town and gown” relationship.
More than a decade ago, he established Community Design Solutions, a program that pairs UWM students with AIA members to provide pro bono services to central-city neighborhoods and community groups.
When internationally renowned architect Antoine Predock was hired to design Milwaukee’s Indian Community School, Greenstreet acted as an adviser and even suggested Predock lure Native American architect and UWM alumnus Chris Cornelius away from Virginia to join the design team (which he did). Today, Cornelius is on the UWM faculty.
“His energy, enthusiasm and scope are boundless,” says Predock of Greenstreet.
Ultimately, however, Greenstreet’s validation comes from SARUP graduates.
“These days, when a new student comes up to me and says, ‘My dad/mom says hi,’ it invariably means that they are following in their parents’ footsteps and coming to SARUP based upon strong parental encouragement,” he says. “Recommendations don’t come any stronger, or more satisfying, than that.”