Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
When America was released on New Year's Day 2014, it symbolized a new beginning for the Samples. It was the first album featuring the group's new lineup, and it was recorded and released independently, without any kind of label backing. Sean Kelly wrote his freshest batch of songs in years, imbuing America with the hopeful, thoughtful spirit that has always made the man's music so compelling for so many. The sparkly melodies, broad vistas of sound and impressionistic, poetic wordplay suggest a reinvention and the reclaiming of the ability to dream of a better place.
The 1200 block of Bannock Street is a difficult place to build something, not because the topography is difficult, but because the level of competition for architectural excellence is so fierce nearby. That makes it quite an accomplishment for the designers of the Denver Art Museum Administration Building, Denver's Roth Sheppard Architects, to have come up with something that doesn't just hold its own, but actually stands out among its heady neighbors. For the design, Jeff Sheppard conceived of a sleek horizontal mass with a constructivist handling of the fenestration. The chaste and smartly composed box is richly detailed with colored glass and stone panels. The building is absolutely perfect in its prominent location, and its many fine qualities remind us why Roth Sheppard is one of the most respected architectural firms in town.
The railroads were essential to Denver's development, and there has been a train station at 17th and Wynkoop since the 1880s. Union Station, in its present form, was built in 1914 by the renowned firm of Gove and Walsh. In the intervening years, time and the decline of passenger rail service led the building to fall into a genteel decline. But it was so beloved, and so important to the character of nearby LoDo, that it was rehabbed — a $54 million project that was finished last summer. The resulting design, by Tryba Architects and JG Johnson Architects, includes shops, restaurants and the new but old-fashioned Crawford Hotel, which boasts 112 luxury rooms, some of which have been decorated in a way that highlights the days when people traveled in Pullman sleeping cars. The spiffed-up station still serves passengers on trains, but it is also now connected to a huge bus and light-rail station that ties modern transportation back to the city's days of yore.
The Denver Public Library's system of branches features many little architectural gems, some of them dating back a century, and the newest one has taken a spot in this worthy tradition. Named for late Denver Chicano activist Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, the smart-looking branch was done by Studiotrope Design Collective. There's a lively handling of the building's volumes; though basically rectilinear, some of those rectangles are set on the diagonal. The details are even livelier, and the most striking of these are the thin horizontal bars of color cladding the second floor and spilling down onto the first in places — which gives the whole thing a futuristic character.
As part of her job as cultural-affairs director for Denver Arts & Venues, Tariana Navas-Nieves oversees what visitors see and do at the city's malleable McNichols Building. But while wielding that directorial influence, Navas-Nieves began to feel that the McNichols needed more than just the physical makeover that will begin there when the doors temporarily close this coming August; it also needed an image makeover that would make its ongoing events and exhibitions seem just a bit more interesting. To that end, the building is hosting the McNichols Project, a quarterly event series that turns art viewing into an experience unlike those you'll find at other gallery spaces in town, as new shows come and go in the space. The program's successful first installment took place in February; the second event, scheduled for June 18, will riff on spring gallery shows about rock musicians of the '60s and art about play.
When Pagliacci's closed in 2012 after 66 years of serving Italian food, the fate of the funky old building where it was located was sealed. And while it's sad to see old landmarks disappear, at least some of their replacements are worth looking at — like the distinctive Lumina Apartments, which rose on the Pagliacci's site. Designed by Tres Birds Workshop, the building has a complex form stepping up from the corner, which is marked by a semi-circular wing with a tower tucked behind. Above that, the upper floors are set back in a sequence of three additional terraces. This dramatic massing is the perfect setting for unusual metal panels that have been pierced with geometric patterns. These panels are used for the balcony railings and screens and represent a clever take on traditional ironwork.