Code Words

Just as sounds and symbols are organized to create meaning in language, so, too, does the built environment give structure to our everyday lives. From the Ballpark Lofts to the abandoned Evans School to the Qwest tower, each building projects a certain meaning that contributes to our urban experience.

To shed light on this sometimes mysterious process, the Architectural Laboratory/Denver, a local group of architects, has joined with the Denver chapter of the American Institute of Architects to co-sponsor "Cracking Codes," a series of lectures taking place through May at the Rattlebrain Theater's home in the May D&F Tower. The aim is to create a setting in which city-dwellers can learn to interpret their man-made environment.

On Monday, March 14, Yale Professor of Urban Planning and Management Alexander Garvin and Denver Planning Director Peter Park will present the series' second installment, "The Code of a Great City. " As Park explained in a recent interview, innovative architecture comes from architects, developers and patrons, as well as members of the general public engaged in dialogue on the design of their surroundings. "Sometimes they love it," he said. "Sometimes they hate it."

But the evening won't involve just theory. Garvin -- also a New York City planning commissioner who helped oversee the design competition for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site -- will share insights from his book, The American City: What Works and What Doesn't. Park, too, has hands-on knowledge. He's currently supervising an overhaul of Denver's codes and regulations, and has experience as planning director for the City of Milwaukee, where he revamped zoning and helped redevelop the city's blighted core.

To a certain degree, the way we experience the design of our city is the way we experience our lives. Understanding the process by which urban space is created is an answer to a code in itself.

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Jared Jacang Maher

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