Art Review


Charles Deaton, the creator of the Sculptured House wasn't the only local architect with a flair for the theatrical. James Sudler was one, also. Whereas Deaton was a self-taught high school graduate who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, Sudler was a bon vivant Yale grad -- and one of the most gifted, sophisticated and stylish architects who ever worked in Colorado.

The 1954 Columbine Building (1845 Sherman Street) and the 1959 Daly Insurance Building (1576 Sherman) were two of Sudler's earliest major commissions. But the distinctive sunscreens and an integral Edgar Britton fountain were removed from the Daly a couple of years ago, and the Columbine, with an equally distinctive facade that zigzagged like an accordion bellows, has fared even worse, with only the building's structural members surviving. What happened to both landmarks demonstrates the old adage about casting pearls before swine.

Sudler's most significant commission was the 1965 United States Courthouse and Rodgers Federal Building (1929 and 1961 Stout Street), a complex that features a polygonal tower that seems to refer to the work of Italian modernist Gio Ponti. And, surprise, surprise, Sudler did, in fact, team up with Ponti a few years later to design the 1971 Denver Art Museum (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway.)

However, the one building Sudler created that's as readily recognizable as Deaton's Sculptured House is the "Ski Jump" church (above), or, as it's officially known, the Church of the Risen Christ (3060 South Monaco Parkway) completed in 1970. Sudler designed it while he was working on the DAM, but Le Corbusier, not Ponti, was the inspiration. The nickname derives from the fact that the steeple is connected to the nave by a continuous arching volume. (With this Alpine imagery, and the reference to Swiss-born Le Corbusier, maybe the church should have been called St. Bernard's?) Originally the windows were conceived as super-graphics of colored stripes -- but sadly those were replaced with stained glass (pearls and swine again).

Sudler died in 1982 but lives on in his buildings, even though a few, such as the Columbine and the Daly, are lost.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia