Call it monstrous or magnificent, bombastic or beautiful. That the spanking-new Daniel L. Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness at the University of Denver could elicit such a wide range of responses suggests the aesthetic power of the $70 million athletic facility. Designed by Denver architect Cabell Childress, with technical support from the Davis Partnership, the center opened last fall, but some finishing touches -- like a gigantic ceramic tile mural by Maynard Tishler -- are still being applied. The focal point of the whole thing is its impressive and overscaled gothic tower, which is surrounded by a dizzying array of rectilinear wings. But there's also the inspired and mind-boggling abundance of expensive materials, like the two-tone sandstone and limestone on some of the exterior walls, the copper sheeting around the rest, or the gold leaf that has been generously applied to the tower's conical roof. More than anything else, it was Childress's ambitious vision and DU's apparently very deep pockets that made the postmodern Ritchie Center the best of the many buildings that rose from the ground in Denver last year.

Readers' choice: The Pepsi Center

High-rises have been popping up like mushrooms in the past year, but instead of being downtown, most of them are in the suburbs, where it seems that every community is creating its own skyscraper park -- just about all of which have been soaring successes. The first and foremost of these many decentralized central business districts is the Denver Tech Center and its adjacent developments in south Denver, Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village, where it has been the tradition to build high-style examples of cutting-edge contemporary architecture. The latest masterpiece to adorn the south corridor is the Hines Tower, a neo-modern sculptural triumph by Pickard Chilton Architects of New Haven, Connecticut. Made of polished metal and tinted glass that has been as carefully detailed as a piece of jewelry, the thirteen-story building was assembled in a complicated group of volumes and shapes that have been clustered and stacked. The shiny metal framework grid that envelops the curtain walls makes the building appear taller, because the position of the interior's floors cannot be seen from the outside, as is typically done. Even among its handsome neighbors in and around the DTC, many of them visible from I-25, the sharp-looking Hines tower stands out.
High-rises have been popping up like mushrooms in the past year, but instead of being downtown, most of them are in the suburbs, where it seems that every community is creating its own skyscraper park -- just about all of which have been soaring successes. The first and foremost of these many decentralized central business districts is the Denver Tech Center and its adjacent developments in south Denver, Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village, where it has been the tradition to build high-style examples of cutting-edge contemporary architecture. The latest masterpiece to adorn the south corridor is the Hines Tower, a neo-modern sculptural triumph by Pickard Chilton Architects of New Haven, Connecticut. Made of polished metal and tinted glass that has been as carefully detailed as a piece of jewelry, the thirteen-story building was assembled in a complicated group of volumes and shapes that have been clustered and stacked. The shiny metal framework grid that envelops the curtain walls makes the building appear taller, because the position of the interior's floors cannot be seen from the outside, as is typically done. Even among its handsome neighbors in and around the DTC, many of them visible from I-25, the sharp-looking Hines tower stands out.
The widow of Bob Magness, legendary founder of cable company TCI, Sharon Magness is one society lady who's concerned with more than just fashion shows and stuffy luncheons -- though she seems to like those, too -- and she's become Denver's go-to woman for those in need. While Magness is involved with many of the groups traditionally patronized by Denver's elite, including the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, she also gave $250,000 to the campaign to replace the library at Columbine High School after the parents of the massacre victims asked the community for help, as well as millions to Volunteers of America, which works with the homeless, the elderly and the destitute. It's this attention to the most vulnerable Denverites that sets Magness apart from the rest. Well, that and her tendency to arrive at black-tie dinners astride her Arabian horse Thunder, the Broncos' mascot.

The widow of Bob Magness, legendary founder of cable company TCI, Sharon Magness is one society lady who's concerned with more than just fashion shows and stuffy luncheons -- though she seems to like those, too -- and she's become Denver's go-to woman for those in need. While Magness is involved with many of the groups traditionally patronized by Denver's elite, including the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, she also gave $250,000 to the campaign to replace the library at Columbine High School after the parents of the massacre victims asked the community for help, as well as millions to Volunteers of America, which works with the homeless, the elderly and the destitute. It's this attention to the most vulnerable Denverites that sets Magness apart from the rest. Well, that and her tendency to arrive at black-tie dinners astride her Arabian horse Thunder, the Broncos' mascot.

It was downright bizarre. Over the last decade, one LoDo building after another has been cleaned up and given renewed life. But until late last year, the neighborhood's grand dame, the Sugar Building, and her Wazee Street consort, the Sugar Building Annex, stood right in the middle of this urban revival, empty and neglected. Both of these early-twentieth-century modernist buildings were designed by the distinguished Denver architectural firm of Gove and Walsh -- which also did Union Station and the Ice House -- and built as offices for the Great Western Sugar Company. Finally, a specially created corporation, Sugar Cubed LLC, stepped up last year. The restoration job it commissioned is fabulous and extremely light-handed. Credit for that goes to Josh Comfort, the Denver architect who let the beauty of the original buildings shine through. LoDo renovations are already old news, but thankfully, two of its best buildings didn't miss out.

Readers' choice: Forney Museum/REI

It was downright bizarre. Over the last decade, one LoDo building after another has been cleaned up and given renewed life. But until late last year, the neighborhood's grand dame, the Sugar Building, and her Wazee Street consort, the Sugar Building Annex, stood right in the middle of this urban revival, empty and neglected. Both of these early-twentieth-century modernist buildings were designed by the distinguished Denver architectural firm of Gove and Walsh -- which also did Union Station and the Ice House -- and built as offices for the Great Western Sugar Company. Finally, a specially created corporation, Sugar Cubed LLC, stepped up last year. The restoration job it commissioned is fabulous and extremely light-handed. Credit for that goes to Josh Comfort, the Denver architect who let the beauty of the original buildings shine through. LoDo renovations are already old news, but thankfully, two of its best buildings didn't miss out.

Readers' choice: Forney Museum/REI

In 1992, despite its charming 1920s Italian Renaissance revival style, the venerable old Midland Building had been written off by everyone, including the city's hardcore preservationists. Believe it or not, the high-rise wasn't, at the time, considered to be historically valuable. The fact that it was designed by one of Denver's greatest early-twentieth-century architectural firms, Fisher and Fisher, didn't seem to matter, either. Luckily, the building's developers, Corum Real Estate Group, skipped the possibility of a surface parking lot at the site and instead decided to take advantage of downtown's boom times by turning the Midland Building into residential lofts. Now, as the redo moves toward completion, no one would doubt the building's historic credentials or its value to downtown's architectural diversity. One great challenge for the restoration architect, Paul Bergner (in consultation with David Owen Tryba), was the need to re-create the exterior massing and details of the first floor and mezzanine, which had been lost in a misguided 1970s rehab. The project reminds us that in historic preservation -- as in baseball -- it ain't over till it's over.

In 1992, despite its charming 1920s Italian Renaissance revival style, the venerable old Midland Building had been written off by everyone, including the city's hardcore preservationists. Believe it or not, the high-rise wasn't, at the time, considered to be historically valuable. The fact that it was designed by one of Denver's greatest early-twentieth-century architectural firms, Fisher and Fisher, didn't seem to matter, either. Luckily, the building's developers, Corum Real Estate Group, skipped the possibility of a surface parking lot at the site and instead decided to take advantage of downtown's boom times by turning the Midland Building into residential lofts. Now, as the redo moves toward completion, no one would doubt the building's historic credentials or its value to downtown's architectural diversity. One great challenge for the restoration architect, Paul Bergner (in consultation with David Owen Tryba), was the need to re-create the exterior massing and details of the first floor and mezzanine, which had been lost in a misguided 1970s rehab. The project reminds us that in historic preservation -- as in baseball -- it ain't over till it's over.

I-70 commuters call it "the flying-saucer house" or "the Sleeper house," after its cameo appearance in a Woody Allen movie, but architect Charles Deaton considered it a personal statement of freedom. The acquisition of Deaton's masterpiece by software mogul John Huggins, after years of neglect by a previous owner, is good news for all lovers of non-Euclidean geometry. Huggins is investing the care and cash needed to finish the interior of the never-occupied house with the aid of Deaton's designing daughter, Charlee. He's also building an addition, following the plans drawn up by Deaton (who died a few years ago) and local architect Nicholas Antonopoulos of Praxis Design. When completed this summer, the result will be an incredible mountain retreat -- and the unique vision of an important artist realized at last.

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