Chuck Sink's mid-mod legacy lives on locally
Chuck Sink, who died on April 12, just six weeks shy of his ninetieth birthday, was one of the greatest mid-century modernist architects to have worked in Denver. Born in 1923 in Indiana, he was first exposed to modernism at age ten, when he attended the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
Sink first came to Denver in 1950, after earning his architecture degrees from Harvard, where he studied with Walter Gropius. In the late '50s, he was among I.M. Pei's Denver collaborators in the design of Zeckendorf Plaza, one of the city's greatest works of architecture. Sadly, that complex survives today only in fragments.
From the late '50s through the '80s, Sink created an impressive body of work in the forms of residential and commercial buildings. He also did sports facilities, most notably the now-demolished McNichols Sports Arena.
When Diane Wray Tomasso and I put together The Mid-Century Modern House in Denver for Historic Denver, we included five Sink-designed residences — though we easily could have included more. There's the (endangered) formalist Beck House, from 1958, at 4701 South University Boulevard; the second-phase international-style Voiland House, from 1963, at 1775 Union Street; the rustic modern Aycrigg House, from 1970, at 2950 El Camino Drive; and two dramatic late-modernist designs — the 1972 Sink House, at 4300 East Mansfield Avenue, and the 1978 Sever House, at 10 Dahlia Street. Though not in the HD guidebook, also noteworthy is the cycle of chic-looking residences on East Dakota Avenue near Grape Street, built in 1979-80.
I have to say my favorite Sink design is 1969-'70's One Cheesman Place (pictured), that stiletto of a high-rise on the north side of Cheesman Park. It's an attenuated vertical shaft mounted on pillars that rise from a podium. The east and west walls are essentially windowless, and the north side is fairly solid, too. But the south side, which overlooks the park — and in the process takes in a view of the Front Range — is covered in screening, behind which are balconies that front the glass curtain walls defining each floor. It's certainly one of the most sophisticated tall buildings in Colorado.
Sink is gone, but his built legacy lives on — for now, anyway.
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