Fans of the building-as-a-work-of-art concept — count me among them — can't help but marvel at the Denver Art Museum's 1971 tower, just west of the library. It links itself to the other elements of the group for no other reason than because it's gray, a milky gray produced by the thousands of glass tiles covering it. The building, a glitzy take on brutalism, is the only major work by Gio Ponti in North America, and it is fabulous. It's hard to think of this strange building, with its cut-out skyline, as looking conventional, but that's what Daniel Libeskind's deconstructionist Hamilton Building, from 2006, across the street to the south, does to it. Though reviled by many, I love the Hamilton, and, having been there almost as many times as some employees, I can say with confidence that it works great as an exhibition venue.

There's been something of a museum-building boom in this area, with Brad Cloepfil's restrained and exquisitely detailed Clyfford Still Museum, from 2011, situated immediately west of the Hamilton. A block east is the newest museum, 2012's History Colorado Center, the crowning achievement — so far — of David Tryba's career. The complicated and thoughtful massing gives the building a prominent presence along Broadway. (Like the Still, History Colorado is artfully detailed, but unlike the Still, where there are riches on view inside, at History Colorado the interior has been filled to the rafters with some of the dumbest displays imaginable.)

I'll close this tiptoe through the Civic Center by saying how lucky Denver was that the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse, by Denver's klipp (now part of gkkworks), with Keat Tan in the design chair, turned out so well, because the bureaucratic process leading up to its design set expectations very low: Our hapless city managers showed off an ignorance of architecture by mixing together neo-traditional and neo-modern sensibilities, nearly guaranteeing that the complex would not jell coherently. They also ran off starchitect Steven Holl, whose ultra-smart design was rejected.

The history of architecture in Denver in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries — and, by extension, the history of American architecture — is written across the greater Civic Center.

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4 comments
Johnny Genova
Johnny Genova

Yeah it's great, just get rid of the crack heads.

Karen Trujillo
Karen Trujillo

Uh-huh...60+ native...it best be well maintained at all times!

Che Harness
Che Harness

It's a great place with a lot of history. I've always enjoyed the fountain when it's on. The theater area has always seemed majestic to me and the perfect venue for expression of public opinion and community bonding. I love the free shows that have been going on there this summer!!

Syd Tastic
Syd Tastic

Every time I go past Civic Center Park, someone offers to sell me weed. That place is stoned, creepy guy central most days.

 
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