Art Review


Last spring, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center announced an incredibly stupid expansion plan. Cooked up by Minneapolis-based facility planner Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, the concept called for a huge box to be plunked down on the front of the building. That building, as it happens, is a 1936 moderne masterpiece by New Mexico's John Gaw Meem, and such an insensitively placed addition would destroy it. The expansion plan was almost universally reviled -- at least outside of the center's board meetings -- and generated a fury of public outrage.

Much better news greeted admirers of the Fine Arts Center a few months later, when HGA's plan collapsed under its own weight. The lucky break that KO'd the plan was that the land needed for the addition wasn't actually owned by the Fine Arts Center. Not only that, but it wasn't even available for purchase, since this particular parcel is protected as a park under the provisions of the will of General William Jackson Palmer, the original donor of the land. Oops.

We'll soon see if the bigwigs at the Fine Arts Center learned their lesson. A couple of weeks ago, the institution announced that the architectural firm of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects will team up with Gensler Worldwide to come up with a new design for an addition. I have to say, I wish Denver's David Owen Tryba, another of the finalists, had gotten the job; I'd trust him completely with this architectural treasure. That's not exactly how I feel about Gwathmey Siegel and Gensler, not after their lousy and fortunately rejected proposal for an addition to another significant early-modernist building in Colorado, the 1940s international-style Annex I in Denver's Civic Center. The Annex I was designed by Smith, Hegner and Moore, and the designer of the now nearly completed addition is none other than Tryba.

Let's hope that historic building consultant, Santa Fe architect and Meem specialist Victor Johnson, who's also part of the Fine Arts Center team, will do a conscientious job of keeping Gwathmey Siegel and Gensler in line.