Civic Center: How a "hodge-podge" of design is set to evolve

The future of Civic Center is also fun for toy cars.
The future of Civic Center is also fun for toy cars.

Of all the neighborhoods in Denver, Civic Center is probably the one, from a design standpoint, with the most character. From the classical Greco-Roman columns and domes of Civic Center Park to the jutting angles of the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building, there's no neighborhood in Denver with quite Civic Center's architectural range.

Tonight at Denver's Civic Center: A Glimpse into the Future, a panel of prominent architects and city planners, moderated by Westword Art Critic Michael Paglia, will tackle the startling eclecticism of that neighborhood, what it means and how it's about to get weirder.

"There's been a huge explosion of design in the Civic Center Neighborhood," says Darrin Alfred, curator of the Denver Art Museum's Architecture, Design and Graphics department, which is putting on the panel. "There's Curt Fentress's new Justice Center, there's David Tryba's History Colorado building going up right now. You have the Hamilton Building and the Clyfford Still museum. So what we wanted to do was to sort of bring these parties together to talk about how these projects will impact the look and feel of Civic Center and how that affects Denver as a whole."

Lookin' good there, future of Civic Center.
Lookin' good there, future of Civic Center.

To that end, the program brings together some looming figures of design in the area -- for starters, Fentress and Tryba, who have some very big hands in two of the biggest projects in Civic Center right now: the new Justice Center and History Colorado buildings, as Alfred mentioned. Also present will be Peter Park, manager of community planning and development for the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs -- the guy who oversees it all -- and Kendall Peterson, DOCA's public art administrator. "Public art is a big component of the architectural projects we have going on right now," notes Alfred. "We thought that tied in nicely."

Upcoming Events

The panel gets started tonight at 6 p.m. in the Sharp Auditorium of the DAM's Hamilton Building, 100 West 14th Avenue, with an introduction from Paglia and then the discussion, followed by a reception at Mad Wine Bar across the courtyard. Tickets will run you $12, and you can reserve them by calling 720-913-0044 or, if they're still available, just buying them at the door. And if you're interested in city design or architecture, Alfred asserts, there's no better neighborhood to examine.

"The neighborhood is really an interesting hodge-podge," says Alfred. "I think of it as like a large-scale gallery of architectural design. It's different from anywhere I've ever lived or worked."


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