Sit on It

The point of his column--if there was one--was that Denver shouldn't construct a proposed but not yet funded gateway arch in front of Denver Union Terminal (known to all as Union Station). There had been a gateway arch on this site before: The 1906 Welcome Arch, also called the Mizpah Arch, which was removed in 1931. The suggested new arch is set to be designed by internationally famous Swiss architect Mario Botta. If built, it will include water features and laser beams and will serve as a centerpiece for a proposed park to replace the ugly parking lot. These ambitious plans were drawn up by the Millennium Marker Steering Committee, headed by architect Ron Mason.

But Ewegen had already knocked the arch in an unsigned editorial with the title "Arch Enemies," published the week before. So he filled his bylined piece with his by now old-hat attack on Denver's Annex I, a masterpiece of mid-twentieth-century architecture that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1940s Annex I is currently the focus of a preservation struggle; its designation as a Denver landmark is pending. Current plans call for Annex I to be rehabbed and incorporated into a proposed new city and county administration building.

Ewegen thinks it's funny to compare the Bauhaus-inspired Annex I on Denver's Civic Center to Hitler's bomb shelter, the FYhrerbunker, which is what he calls the building, despite the fact that der FYhrer, like Ewegen, hated modern architecture. Hitler went so far as to close the Bauhaus in 1933, arresting or casting into exile its teachers and students, most of whom eventually wound up in the U.S. or Israel. Ewegen, for his part, went so far as to reveal that he is ignorant of any of this--though it has been a pretty big story for more than half a century.

Though European modern architects fled for their lives from Europe, Annex I was not designed by exiles; rather, the building was the work of a trio of now-deceased American-born architects, Dudley Smith, Casper Hegner and Tom Moore, all of whom served in World War II--on our side. But Ewegen wasn't finished with his disgraceful know-nothingness. He also denounced Denver City Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt, who has been a champion of excellence in urban design and has thus raised the ire of Ewegen, who is himself a champion of mediocrity.

Chairs! Chairs! Chairs!, through July 17, at the Center for the Visual Arts, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.

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