The Bronzeville Center for the Arts has paired a growing Milwaukee architect with a nationally known designer to create what they hope will become a major attraction. Both are African American and, as they began talking and collaborating for the project, realized they both have grandfathers who were architects.
Isaac Menyoli, president of M&E Architects+Engineers in Milwaukee, said his grandfather on his mother’s side was an architect for the Germans relating to their colonization of Cameroon. Menyoli has practiced architecture in Milwaukee for nearly 30 years, but he started his building design career at age 15 in Cameroon, when he met an architect at the Great Soppo market and was hired as an apprentice.
“I knew I had lost the title of first architect in the family, because I knew there had already been one,” Menyoli joked of the time his father told him of the family history.
Menyoli is the local design lead for the Bronzeville Center for the Arts development, and will be working closely with Peter Cook of HGA’s Washington, D.C., office. Cook’s grandfather, Julian Abele Cook Sr., was the building coordinator at Howard University.
“Isaac and I clearly have had different upbringings, and that is going to add a certain richness to our collaboration and the design that will come of it,” Cook said. “It’s not that the two of us are completely aligned exactly in how we look at architecture. We’re going to play off of each other.”