Since the turn of the Millennium, Denver’s Museum District has come into its own as a cultural destination. Studio Daniel Libeskind, with local partner Davis Partnership Architects, expanded the Denver Art Museum with the Hamilton Building (2006), also contributing the Museum Residencies (2006). Allied Works contributed the Clyfford Still Museum (2011), Tryba Architects gave us the sublime facade of History Colorado (2012), Civic Center Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, and a refreshed Colorado Judicial Center (2013) by Fentress added a touch of classicism. Three new projects, one just opened, the other in construction, and the last in planning, will add to this rich and varied environment with programs focused on the advancement of arts and culture in Denver.
This spring on the campus of the Denver Art Museum, local firm Roth Sheppard Architects completed the quietly excellent Denver Art Museum Offices. With three levels and 50,000 square feet, the building provides office space for 100 employees, as well as a research library and collections storage facility. The open, horizontal design references the Clyfford Still Museum, while the deft use of transparency and rhythm of the facade glazing establish a dialogue between the building and its surroundings. An open plan and soaring central light well will make this building a joy to inhabit while the well-detailed facade telegraphs hints of its interior program and connects the users to Denver’s streetscape.
The Art Hotel, a mixed-use project by Davis Partnership Architects, is slated for completion in spring of 2015 and will complete the Denver Art Museum campus plan. After serving as the local architect for Libeskind’s 2006 Hamilton Building and Museum Residences, Davis Partnership is helming the design of this mixed-use building. The structure is under construction, with the first three floors completed, and steel rapidly moving skyward as of this writing.
Also planned is a new home for the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art. The project will house, among other collections, the International Decorative Art Collection, which contains over 15,000 objets d’art from Art Nuveau to the present. Designed by Seattle firm Olson Kundig Architects, the new building will break ground in early 2015 and provide over 30,000 square feet for the museum’s salon-style galleries. Renderings show a relatively low, horizontal building composed of a monolithic mass that appears to be clad in Olson Kundig’s signature material—weathering steel. Juxtaposed against this mass is a lighter, more transparent construction, which addresses the streetscape on both 12th Avenue and Bannock Street. The entrance is set back from the street between these two masses, drawing visitors deeper into the site before depositing them inside.
Studio Daniel Libeskind’s master plan document for the district, generated during the 2006 addition of the Hamilton Building, specifically identifies Bannock Street adjacent to the Denver Art Museum as an optimal location for additional cultural infrastructure, a consideration that helped drive site selection for the Clyfford Still Museum. The Kirkland’s new building will sit directly across Bannock from the Denver Art Museum Offices, which are themselves adjacent to the Clyfford Still. Taken together, these three structures are important elements in the completion of the master plan, while providing an architectural counterpoint to the strong, faceted geometry of Libeskind’s Hamilton Building. With these projects, Denver is significantly extending its cultural capital and civic profile. At the same time, an unintended consequence may be the slow emergence of a regional modernism, giving form to Denver’s independent spirit.