BEST ESTIMATE FOR WHEN WARD CHURCHILL WILL BE FINISHED

May 31, 2006

At the University of Colorado, Ward Churchill has outlasted athletic director Dick Tharpe, chancellor Richard Bynny, president Betsy Hoffman, even football coach Gary Barnett. But we're predicting he won't outlast current president Hank Brown. The committee reviewing Churchill's work is supposed to turn in its report by May -- and with any luck, by then the regents will have come to their senses and made Brown's interim appointment permanent. That, and a handy chunk of change (but less than it cost to get rid of Barnett) should be all it takes to make Churchill disappear from CU. He won't have any problem finding another public podium, of course. But at least Colorado will be able to close the book on one of its most unsavory chapters.

BEST SPOT TO PONDER DENVER'S BURGEONING CULTURAL RELEVANCE

13th Ave. and Broadway

There are strips that are faster, but when you're heading west across central Denver, there's no more scenic route than Thirteenth Avenue. And if you happen to get stopped at the light at Broadway -- as you inevitably will -- your route will seem positively inspired. Rather than fume silently at the crimson glow overhead, use the time to ponder Denver's rapid ascension into a bona fide city of cultural note. To your immediate right, there's the Colorado History Museum, with its buffalo sculptures, exhibit banners and exasperated teachers bookending chains of linked-armed kids. Across the street, there's the massive central branch of the Denver Public Library, alternately spilling out and sucking in the bookish, the homeless, the hurried. To your left, a museum devoted to the work of Clyfford Still will soon join the galleries and theaters that already dot the Golden Triangle. And there, straight ahead, like some strange metal spaceship, is Daniel Libeskind's sprawling addition to the Denver Art Museum, slated to open this fall. Imagine the influx of art and architecture buffs; envision the lines out the door. Think about all the great concerts you've seen recently, all the creative, artistic people you know. Could this city be on the verge of something big? Twirling in the second floor of the Colorado Ballet building, the Degas ballerinas smile down on your still-stopped car. To them, that's the dumbest question in the world.
Bart Simpson used to stand on highway overpasses just like this one and spit on the anonymous traffic below. God bless that little fucker. We can't believe there's no barrier here, no chain-link fence, nothing. We could hurl ourselves right over this railing right now, and nobody could stop us. The fall might not kill us, but one of those cars whipping by at 65 mph sure would. Man, we'd love to see the look on Johnny SUV's face when we came crashing through his windshield! It'd be priceless. And look at Invesco Field over there. Oh, we're sorry, Invesco Field at Mile High. Like anyone even says Mile High. It's all about Invesco; corporations always win. God, it's so depressing. And look at REI -- that used to be the Forney Museum with all those cool cars and that Alfred Packer diorama. Now look at the place: cobwebs to kayaks, train cars to trail mix. We ought to end this right now. For chrissakes, there's an aquarium with a seafood restaurant in it right over there by the Children's Museum. In Denver! That's it, we're going over the rail, right now. But what's that? That burst of laughter from the open door of My Brother's Bar just down the road? That's the oldest bar in town; Neal Cassady still has an outstanding tab there. Maybe we should head over for a drink. Yeah, why not? Just one.
The bridge at Genesee Pass, which separates the Clear Creek and Bear Creek drainages, as well as Gilpin County from Clear Creek County, may well be the most elegant structure in the state. The perfect fusion of form and function, achieved with perfect economy of means, it stands in silent mockery of the many overwrought, pseudo-historical pastiches that have sprouted like weeds along the Front Range. Designed by in-house Colorado Department of Transportation engineer Frank Lundburg, it was completed in 1970 for $410,000 -- but would have been a bargain at many times that, so beautifully does it frame the view of the Continental Divide for west-bound motorists. Literally and figuratively, this is the gateway to the Rockies.
Denver Central Library
From the street, Civic Center Park may just look like a good place to score cheap dope and tweak out, but climb to the seventh floor of the central branch of the Denver Public Library, step out onto the deck -- and it's as if you're Eva Peron, staring down at a world of graciousness and beauty. In the summer, the trees form a soft, green canopy over the park and frame all of Colorado's governmental power institutions; in winter, the branches make the view look like an abstract-expressionist painting. Staring down from these heights, you almost feel sorry for the governor and mayor toiling away in their puny little buildings. No wonder City Librarian Rick Ashton had his office up here.
Like any other teenagers, homeless teens (and all the ragged posers and deadbeat twenty-somethings who lurk alongside them) need a place to hang, too. After getting run out of their long-held Skyline Park kingdom, the gangly crowd migrated up the 16th Street Mall to where it meets Stout Street in front of Walgreens -- but business complaints and motorcycle cops made that spot a bust as well. Today the fountain on the north side of Civic Center Park is the teen meeting place of choice. Though it's poor panhandling territory, the pillared amphitheater allows for all manner of hijinks away from the suits and tourists. At least for now.
Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center
The Hyatt Regency Denver got off to an ignoble start when the old Denver Post Building, an art-moderne treasure by Temple Buell, was torn down to provide a site for a not-yet-lined-up hotel at the expanded Colorado Convention Center. But then things took a turn for the better when klipp, a Denver architectural firm, was hired to design it. The firm's team, headed by Brian Klipp, with Keat Tan acting as design architect, conceived of the hotel as a sleek, neo-modernist skyscraper made up of a series of vertical rectangular volumes that are clustered cubistically and soar to 37 stories. Since the hotel is city-financed, it has lots of publicly funded art; since it's a Hyatt, there are also privately purchased pieces. Jaded Denverites couldn't have expected this building to be the best new high-rise in a generation -- but we ought to be grateful that it is.
It's been empty for more than thirty years, and before rehabilitation started nearly two years ago, the 1904 Evans School looked like it wouldn't need to be demolished, because it just might fall down all by itself. But the quality of the design by architect David W. Dryden, who did it in a Palladian style, was undeniably high, and not only were the bones of the decrepit building beautiful, but they occupied a prominent site near the Denver Art Museum complex. It seemed clear that the Evans School should be saved -- and when owner Richard Eber dragged his heels, the city stepped in to make sure he got the project back on track. Although there's still work to be done, it's now a good bet that this fine old structure will survive for another hundred years.
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
It sounds trite, especially since the analogy was repeated over and over during the construction process, but putting the Ellie Caulkins Opera House inside the historic Quigg Newton Auditorium really was like building a ship in a bottle. The auditorium -- a 1908 buff-colored brick building designed in a neoclassical style by Robert O. Willison -- had become run-down over the years and had long since lost its historic interior. In 2002, voters approved a bond initiative to pay for a renovation, and Denver's Semple Brown Design was hired to design it. Peter Lucking, the firm's principal in charge of the project, came up with a gorgeous, neo-modern interior that's all rich woods and shining glass and metal. Lucking made the best of an unimaginably difficult situation and gave this city a winner.
The Denver Art Museum's Frederic C. Hamilton Building is getting close to completion, although most of the titanium panels that cover it are still encased in plastic wrappers to protect them from airborne debris raised by the construction of the nearby Museum Residences. But from the moment the steel beams started going up, people have been drawn here to look at the site, take pictures of it, let their visiting out-of-town friends and family check it out. The jagged forms of the building designed by Daniel Libeskind aren't even contained by the confines of the block, since part of it flies over Thirteenth Avenue. And if an unfinished building is already one of the best sights in town, imagine what's going to happen when it opens.

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