I paid a visit to The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley a few days ago, and I have to say I just don’t get it.
It was cool. Ultra cool. I was expecting hot.
The museum anchors a small campus of black cubes of glass and tile. Some of the buildings appear to have their support structure on the outside, their frames seemingly held together from the corners by gray threaded tension members with giant turnbuckles that cross their faces, suggesting a bit the crossbones normally topped by a skull. But no skull.
The exposed structure, straight edges and the near-black glass surfaces of the cubes seem intended to reflect an impression of technology and is remarkably free of surface detail and flourishes.
The generic-fonted tile sign that identifies the museum is so enormous that it makes humans look “like little ants.” Or so commented the rider from Allegan, Michigan when he saw the picture I took of him and his lady in front of it.
The iconic HD shield is literally put in a small steel cage at the far end of the building, along with the statue of, I don’t know, some guy falling off an old Harley.
The architecture and graphics strike me as completely out of character, since Harley’s brand rests on creating bikes that appear to have been designed with decades – centuries - old technology. Most Harley riders spend a lifetime bolting on additional “stuff” such as fairings, lights, saddle bags, chrome plated pieces and leather fringe. They are positively exuberant about making their bikes look as flamboyant as possible, as if being really loud was not enough to get noticed.
On such a beautiful day to ride, I anticipated a level of excitement and maybe even awe in the riders as they rolled in. But they seemed to be experiencing the same reaction as me.
Born in Detroit.
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