Best New Building (Since June 1994)
Denver Central Library
The new library is an instant landmark--actually two, when you include the old Burnham Hoyt-designed original currently being renovated. Michael Graves's skyline-in-a-block makes its own bold statement yet pays homage to the old building and the architectural schizophrenia of the Civic Center complex, too. And inside, the place is tremendous, a series of dramatic spaces chock full of Graves's "more is more" approach to decoration. Looking at the great new library, it's easy to see why Graves is one of the most talked-about architects in the world. Added bonus: City Librarian Rick Ashton brought the project in on time and within budget.
Readers' choice: Coors Field
Best New Place to Make Out
Denver Central Library
With 540,000 square feet, the new digs are triple the size of the old building. And, of course, amid the 47 miles of shelf, you can always find somewhere to be alone.
Best Place to Play Peeping Tom
So they trimmed the pine-tree canopies that once served as Denver's best-known spot for private trysts--it's not the end of the world. Cheesman Park is still cruise central for the queer community--and with summer coming up, there's sure to be plenty of nude sunbathing, as well. Dionysus would be pleased.
Best 2001 Reference
Directional signs at DIA
It might have been unintentional, but the designer who thought up those monumental, twenty-foot-tall pointers in the DIA terminal paid real homage to Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic. The functional yet towering signs conjure visions of 2001's dark-side-of-the-moon monoliths. Could HAL have been behind that baggage snafu?
Best Barbi Dream House
Copper Palace, Aspen
Money can buy you love, but it can't buy good taste. And real estate playboy George Gradow is dedicating his entire fortune to proving it. Under the careful direction of his able-bodied wife, former Playboy Playmate and Hef squeeze Barbi "Bunny" Benton, the couple has built the ultimate trophy mansion in Glamour Gulch. One would never guess by the severe facade that hallucinogenic night sweats are the interior design theme of Barbi's dream structure--complete with jeweled walls and padded video pods.
Best Vintage Sign
Lefty Martin Appliance and TV
2816 Colorado Blvd.
In 1962, when North Colorado Boulevard was booming, the owners of Lefty Martin's store constructed a flashy, state-of-the-art neon sign. Today, the exotic advertisement--featuring a smiling Lefty and elaborate lettering blessedly familiar to anyone who lived through the New Frontier--remains in place, more evocative than ever. It's a blast from the past that'll put a glow in your heart.
Best Recycled Sign
Mo Better Ribs & Soul Food
8119 E. Colfax Ave.
For years this East Colfax address was the home of Paisan's, a Midwestern-style, red-checked-tablecloth pizza parlor overseen by the image of an inviting, pencil-mustachioed Italian chef who beckoned passersby to come in and order up a large pepperoni-and-mushroom. The joint currently sells catfish and collard greens--but the same old cook still smiles unendingly from under his chef's hat. And he's now African-American, thanks to a sign painter's quick cultural makeover.
3317 E. Colfax Ave.
Is there a bluebird on it? You bet. This curvaceous pink-and-blue beauty, dark for far too many years, is the spiffiest enticement to take flight yet on porn-infested Colfax Avenue. And inside, all you'll find is good, clean fun.
Best Synchronized Lights
As anyone who has to drive in downtown Denver on a regular basis can attest, the traffic lights along most city thoroughfares seem designed to prevent you from going more than a hundred yards before coming to a grinding halt. So thank goodness for Broadway, which is synchronized for maximum convenience. Head south from the downtown area, and if you maintain a steady speed of around thirty miles per hour, you should be able to go at least a mile between stops. Attention, city officials: If it can be done here, it can be done everywhere.
Best Night Light
Elitch's Ferris wheel
Festooned with 6,000 colored lights and visible for miles, the ten-story-high Ferris wheel at the newly relocated Elitch's sets a festive tone for lower downtown Denver--not that Rockiesville needs the free advertising. Built by Chance Manufacturing of Wichita to loft 120 people at a time into the evening sky, the wheel is a comforting beacon for weary travelers on I-25 and a memory in the making for every kid in town.