Sometimes There Is No Justice

Architect Steven Holl hightailed it out of Denver while the getting was good, but you wouldn't know that from the city's Justice Center project website. It still proudly proclaims that "Steven Holll Architects and klipp Design have been selected as the Courthouse design team" -- with Holl's last name misspelled.

But at least half of that statement is true. Local partner klipp is now the lead architect charged with designing Denver's new courthouse, after Holl bailed earlier this month for reasons that are still entirely murky. Some blame the tight budget, some blame the lack of communication between Holl and city officials in general, and some blame the lack of communication between Holl and James Mejia, the Justice Center's project manager, in particular.

As he's cut a swath across Denver's political landscape -- popping up everywhere from the Denver Public Schools Board to the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (where he served as interim director) to the Justice Center project -- Mejia has drawn both compliments and controversy. And just this week, Off Limits heard that he could soon be off to head up yet another city institution: the Denver Botanic Gardens. (That's an institution that's no stranger to controversy, either, as detailed in Julie Jargon's "Growing Pains," originally published in our November 8, 2001, edition.)


Justice Center

But Mejia says he isn't going anywhere -- at least for now. "I haven't even thought about it," he says. "I'd always planned to leave the Justice Center project, and I'm about eighteen months over where I told the mayor I wanted to be in terms of the project. But right now my single focus is on making sure everything is going well on the Justice Center, and that not only the Denver City Council is convinced, but the public is convinced."

DBG officials, who have been actively searching for a new director, aren't confirming or denying that Mejia is their man. What they will reveal is that there are currently three finalists who will remain unnamed. But several well-placed sources suggest that the DBG is the cushy spot where he'll land after being the fall guy in the courthouse contretemps. And fall Mejia will, they say, because while projects are canceled and architects back out all the time, they rarely do on a project of this size -- $127 million -- or this late in the process.

Kids in the Holl: Holl may be gone, but Deproduction and a group of young architects still plan to bring his design to the public. On Thursday, October 19, they'll host Civic (in)Justice: Lamenting Loss, during which they'll screen Holl's design proposal -- which he would have presented to the city this week -- on the hull of that other famous new design, the Frederic C. Hamilton Building.

"We don't know Steven Holl, and none of us are really personally involved," says (in)Justice organizer Cynthia Leibman, "but we're all people who are excited about Denver getting good, quality buildings."

So at 8 p.m., Tony Shawcross will be on the west side of the Hamilton in his biodiesel-powered bus, projecting Holl's design -- and, with any luck, capturing the event for a future showing on the city's public-access television channel, since he and Deproduction were awarded that contract last December.

"We don't want this to be seen as a criticism of klipp," Leibman says. "It's more just an opening of the discussion of where the projects go and what the character of buildings should be. We were excited by the design that Steven was pursuing, and we are hoping to see if more people are interested, since so many taxpayer dollars are going into something that's in the heart of our city."

Roll 'em.

Clothes call: Last Sunday, the town's fashionistas flocked to the Church for the Highway to Hell fashion show organized by the Skye, that top-label boutique on 15th Street. While the display wasn't exactly a one-way ticket to Hades, it didn't call on Apollo, either. Still, the people-watching was good, even if the ladies of Denver were all decked out in the same uniform: black top, jeans and high heels, and maybe something spangly if they were feeling sexy.

They were all missing the true joy of fashion -- how the simplest shift or the most outrageous pair of Costume National boots can work magic the minute you slip them on, changing your outlook and giving you a sudden confidence. That's something that the author of our new blog, The Cat's Pajamas, knows all about. In fact, Cat wore one of local designer Lynne Bruning's spectacular handmade Wookie coats to the show, and reports that it was like being wrapped in a furry, floor-length magic cloak. For more from Cat, go to, where our fashion feline will prowl the city for the best -- and worst -- sartorial style.


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