Art Review

Artbeat

A few years ago, University of Colorado regents made the rash decision to abandon the school's Health Sciences Center campus in east Denver and move it to the Fitzsimons campus in Aurora.

As illogical as that idea was, there's no second-guessing it now, because it's a fait accompli. Departments of the CU medical school have already moved over to Fitzsimons, and last spring Shea Properties was selected to purchase and revamp the current campus, paying between $30 million and $40 million for the honor.

The announcement that Shea would be the developer left many disheartened, because the firm's main Colorado claim to fame is Highlands Ranch, a nationally known symbol of suburban sprawl. A Highlands Ranch-style development is hardly the kind of thing I'd like to see going up around Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Thankfully, that's not what Shea is planning, as is revealed by the fact that the developer has hired two respected Denver architectural firms to work on the redo: Peter Dominic's 4240 Architecture and Humphries Poli.

Getting some talent to draw up plans for new buildings is great, but what about the existing structures, some of which are important to the city's architectural history? I haven't made a scholarly study of the campus, but some buildings immediately stand out because of their apparent high quality, notably the JFK Child Development Center (above, right) and the Stolinsky Research Laboratories, which are side by side on Eighth Avenue. Both were done in 1968 and designed by Victor Hornbein.

In hypothetical views of the redevelopment plan, the images reveal that some existing buildings on the campus will be reused. Shea has not yet prepared a master plan, and that means it's not too late for the company to employ a professional in historic preservation who can survey and evaluate all the existing buildings so those that are important can be identified and saved.

Well, I can always dream, can't I?

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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