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Question for Colorado architects

Jefferson

What is Colorado architecture? What separates it from other mountain states? What gives it a regionalist feel?
The answer might be that it's not clear what CO architecture is, but I'm just curious about people's thoughts on this.

 
Aug 30, 06 11:06 am
trace™

Mtn towns all look the same to me

Aug 30, 06 11:46 am  · 
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don't plane the wood? leave the bark on?

Aug 30, 06 11:53 am  · 
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switters

it must be big box stores with some token wood truss over the door and a lot of trucks and suv's in the parking lot and oversized roads inbetween, at least that's all i see in colorado. if asking about what something looks like in order to grasp regionalism, you're off to a bad start. who cares if a building has a 'regionalist feel?' that is largely the problem with denver-no one cares if something is actually regional or sustainable, as long it feels or looks regional or sustainable then they are satisfied.
the only piece of real architecture i have seen in colorado is Red Rocks. everything else is just building.

Aug 30, 06 12:42 pm  · 
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Jefferson

ok, good point....RR is fantastic. what other projects out there are genuinely "colorado" in substance? what is colorado architecture...serious answers only, b/c i know it's easy to just point out all the crappy building

Aug 30, 06 1:01 pm  · 
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FRO

mesa verde?

sorry, I'm too overcome with trophy homes and architectural review boards to not be a little bit smartassed. how 'bout a 2 story outhouse?

Aug 30, 06 1:36 pm  · 
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switters

i think that is the point though...colorado is dominated by big boxes clad in a little bit of stone or exposed wood. that would be its style in the most rigorous sense of the word. pointing out the few exceptions evades the notion of regionalism-it sounds like you want a list of excpetional buildings in colorado. its regionalism-the pervasisve forces that are an expression of that place and culture-seems to produce with clear consistancy a slighty decorated box to create a certain feel (doesn't matter if you look at silver rush buildings in leadville or bi box stuff on highway 36). there is no differance bewteen colorado and other mtn states (or atlanta, phoenix, or dallas in most cases for that matter). the only dominate culture -and thus posisble source of 'regionlism'-is sprawl. to argue for somethign regional would be to argue that there is so standing principles and traditions that determine its architecture. there is no such thing.

Aug 30, 06 1:43 pm  · 
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trace™

not many places are not dominated by big box blandness, at least any place with open space left.

There are tons of Vicotrians and other mishmashed brick things from the early part of the century. Some are quite nice, most are really ugly (that's subjective, of course, I personally find them atrocious). That's about the most 'regional' thing I've seen in CO.

I have not, however, seen any in the mtns.


I am with the others, though. Regionalism or the local vernacular should be about the ideas that influence the form, not a formal aesthetic tacked on. Otherwise, it's essentially a McMansion made to look like a log cabin. Unfortunately, it's everywhere. Boulder is particularly bad in this regard.


That said, they are making efforst to do some great stuff in Denver. Libeskind's musuem will open soon, Holl won the courthouse job, there is another Mod Museum opening sometime (nice design, can't recall the guy's name) and there are more competitions.

The starchitecture will be what distinuishes CO more than the past architecture, for better or worse (it's fine with me).

Aug 30, 06 2:21 pm  · 
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Ms Beary

big box is not just colorado. hello.
big box with heavy timber entrance however (accompanying blue standing seam roof optional) - I'm sure colorado leads the pack.

I disagree mountain towns all look alike. We all know much of america has towns that look alike, colorado is actually one of the exceptions, IMO.

Seriously though, in list form, to the best of my ability:
Large windows
Contemporary forms done with traditional materials
Googie Architecture: motel/diner/tourist vernacular
Incorporation of landscape: berming, framing views thru trees, roof and patio gardens.
Blending Indoor/outdoor areas - patios, trellises, extending the mass of the building outside the skin
Craft - small tangible building components like brick, stone, timbers.
Multi-colorful
Response to environment - saving trees, steep terrain, solar, views, local conditions that limit certain methods and materials.

All of the above is not unique to CO, but there you go.

Aug 30, 06 2:25 pm  · 
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Ms Beary

yeh, the victorian thing confuses me

Aug 30, 06 2:28 pm  · 
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Gabe Bergeron

I think there is some regional character in LoDo - although admitedly a fair amount of disney-esque mimicry as well. Also, Capital Hill, Wash Park, and North Denver have some tangible vernacular, with many idioscyncracies. Bungalos and Victorians. And then the capital buildings / city beautiful influence. Another influence to consider might be rural ranch settlements - connected singles stories, etc.

I think of Denver more as a plains town than a mountain town - when I think of the mountains, there are different things going on. The mining settlements, old cabins, etc. And, sadly, many ski-lodgey souped up A-frame mcmansions.

Ultimately, I think architecture in Colorado is more about connection to nature than to architectural precedent. (generalizing here) The lanscape has a power unto itself that overwhelms the built environment and strikes me as a fruitful place to look for design inspiration. long views, endless plains, dramatic mountains, big sky. RR is a good example.

There is also the regionalism that is embodied by the "West" - pioneer spirit, individualism, etc. that can be brought out in what gets built there -the why behind the what.

How to address the vacuous sprawl the city faces strikes me as a rather interesting problem - how do you make a "Place" with a sense of identity and community in the big grid. What civic/social infrastructure is needed? Courtyards? Tighter clusters w/ creative open space infill?

Aug 30, 06 4:40 pm  · 
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Gabe Bergeron

Another thing to consider, although it is not unique to Colorado, but more general to the West -

The old Western town / ghost town has a type: Flat facade facing the drag and extending above a plain box building in back. Like buildings with mardi-gras masks on. Can this be reinterpreted/made interesting? Little Box instead of Big Box? Certainly relates to the building-as-sign line of thought...

Aug 30, 06 4:47 pm  · 
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raj

isn't the star-chitect as the "important architecture" the same as big box ?? the fact that in a few years every town will have its gehry, holl, piano, etc to go with its main street!!

switters-it is interesting that you just see the sameness... well what is the solution? this is what i am interested in...solving this problem. but american regionalists like miller-hull in the NW, rick joy in the SW, or Lake|flato in the Texas have attempted to create something that seemed to overflow from its city...much like RedRocks. Sadly, Colorado has more character, but seems to be satisfied with being overrun by generic or monuments to the architect.

Aug 30, 06 4:50 pm  · 
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Jefferson

yes, this is the kind of discussion I'd like to continue...all interesting responses. what are other good examples of architecture that connects to the landscape of colorado? philip j's cash register building? :P

i am intrigued by the possibilities of using the landscape more for inspiration than it's been used.

Aug 30, 06 5:02 pm  · 
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Gabe Bergeron

Also, what's so bad about the big box? Let's find interesting ways to do adaptive reuse and make 'em exciting places to be!

Aug 30, 06 5:05 pm  · 
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Gabe Bergeron

Connection to landscape in CO:

NCAR building: Pei, Cobb Freed

Aug 30, 06 5:12 pm  · 
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switters

connection to nature? is nature what you are looking at when you are sitting in a car on the 2-3 hour bumper to bumper trip on I-70 to copper mtn. in feb? i am not sure what nature is. it seems that there is nothing more natural in colorado than sprwal right now.

raj: i am also interested in solving the problem, i just don't think that quasi-regional/quais-visual archiecture matters much on this issue. if colorado was serious about 'nature' they would protect it (oregon did with a legitmate, statewide urban growth ring boundary policy). colorado, like so many places, simply loves sprawl-how else can you explain the soon-to-be contiguous pueblo-ft.collins spread? i don't think a few architects gussying-up a few isolated buildings-no matter how much i respect their work outside of this topic-will do much of anything to enhance/protect/fend/tend colorado's single most important asset: the landscape. hence red rocks' or perhaps the air force academy's to attempt to defer to landscpae in the way greek temple (as vincent scully might argue).

i completely agree on the absurd 'star architect' zoo that has overcome the civic center and continues to expand.

the big box can be fine-it is the insane land use and sprawl that associated with the big box mentality that crushes colorado.

i left colorado (i am a native) becasuse everyone moves there for the mountains (to ski, bike, hike-love it). no one moves to denver for denver. so you have a situtation where most everyone lives in a place to be in another place (the mtns), but they are there only maybe 50-60days a year. so the place they spend most of their time in a place(denver)that they are indifferent to and treat accodingly. the amount sprawl (i.e paved over 'landscape' or 'nature') thus increases.

again, i love the exceptions (red rocks, air force acdemy, NCAR) and admire the directness of some mining architecture, but the question of the thread is what is colorado architecture: right now i would maintain it is ovewhelmingly an architecture of sprawl (contempt for the landscape) rather than one of colroado's 'nature', landscape, or history.

Aug 30, 06 6:26 pm  · 
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trace™

I dunno if I agree. Denver is making large moves to increase the density. There are so many infill projects and large loft developments within walking distance to down town it's pretty mind boggling. I bike to down town often and use the bike paths often - those were large factors when I decided to move here.

I like mtn biking and snowboarding, and I like the access to Denver. Sorry, I don't see anything wrong with enjoying both.

I do agree that sprawl sucks. It looks particularly bad here because there is nothing to hide it. Just some dumb development in the middle of nowhere, all packed together. If it weren't for the overall economic ramifications, I'd be happy that gas prices were high.


If I were to say what architecture in CO is now I'd say 'Lofts'! So many semi-modern lofts with some kind of metal siding, most looking so much like the neighbor. It's not necessarily all that bad, but I certainly welcome something more thoughtful.

Aug 30, 06 11:25 pm  · 
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Josh Emig

I think it's interesting that so many people equate Colorado (and other Western states like Montana and Wyoming) with the mountains, though these states are mostly plains -- the very thing that defined this country at one point, the very thing that America's most-beloved architect often sought to embrace and accentuate: horizontality, wide open space.

Hence sprawl, yes, and also what have arguably become the least common denominators of sprawl (not Wal-Mart): the ranch house (actual ranch house - scrappy box along the roadside on the edge of a ranch, dusty yard, dog house, truck) and the mobile home (setting sim.).

Aug 31, 06 10:02 am  · 
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Gabe Bergeron

How about the industrial stacks of commerce city? There's some inspiration for ya! Commerce city factory to loft conversions! Nestled amongst the pipes and wires and steel rails...

Aug 31, 06 10:10 am  · 
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A

Denver International connects people to the landscape. Isn't that roof supposed to represent the snowcapped rockies? Even if you think it looks more like tepees you still have a connection - only to the past inhabitants of the other half of Colorado.

Always amused at how the log cabin seems to be the quintessentail mountian vernacular. Seen far more log cabins in the north woods of MN, WI, MI and New England than I've ever seen in any rocky mountain states.

Aug 31, 06 10:50 am  · 
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Jefferson

Denver is being Libeskindized!! Last night he was here to present his Civic Plaza redesign...ek!

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4958031,00.html


The one new building in Denver I love is the MoCA....a beautiful Adjaye addition

Aug 31, 06 10:50 am  · 
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Jefferson

I think DIA is a great example of connection to the landscape...plus you can see it from most of the ridges of the Front Range....a visual connection. And since I travelled all over the country this summer, I can confidently say that it's the best new airport out there....well organized, roomy, modern.

Aug 31, 06 10:53 am  · 
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Jefferson

Colorado a plains state? No way....1/3 is plains, while 2/3 is vertical

Aug 31, 06 10:54 am  · 
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Josh Emig

Fair enough. I'm not from Colorado, and I've only driven from Denver to Durango and back several times. I recall it being largely flat (flat is flat even if it is 9000 feet above sea level). I also recall seeing a lot more of the houses I've described above than Wal-Marts, airports, museums, or lofts.

I'm thinking it's closer to 50/50, though.

Aug 31, 06 11:20 am  · 
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trace™

Whatever it is, it does feel like plains. It's really quite shocking to most people "I thought Denver was in the Mtns".

DIA is great when you approach it while it's snowing. All you see are the glowing canopies.


The new MoCA does look very nice. I am glad they built Libeskind's and are building this one, essentially complete opposites but both exceptional pieces of architecture.

Aug 31, 06 11:21 am  · 
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Gabe Bergeron
Oh pointy building,

Oh pointy pointy,
Anoint my head,
Anointy nointy

Talk about plop!

Aug 31, 06 1:45 pm  · 
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A

DIA is one of my favorite airports...mostly because it's huge like ATL or ORD, but doesn't have near the traffic. It's pretty much in Kansas though. They should have those coin operated binoculars like at Mt. Rushmore at the airport so people can actually see the rocky mountains are out there.

I don't know about Denver having a regional feel. The big box with stone and wood facades are a bit clumsy. Then again, Denver is like a big version of Calgary. I've spent quite a bit of time in both cities and Calgary really has nothing in terms of regoinal architecture. They have corporate glass boxes and standard big box suburban stock. Nothing really in terms of stone or wood to make it "regional."

But maybe that's good. Let the city be what cities are, all homogonized to look about the same. Then when you go into Banff you see regional architecture. Makes the vacation trips that much more special. Why make Denver look like Breckenridge? Then nobody would need to visit the tourist towns.

Sep 1, 06 8:28 am  · 
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SPYDER01

any design build firms that anyone knows of in denver?

Sep 13, 06 6:16 pm  · 
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trace™
http://www.moorearchitects.com/
Sep 13, 06 7:11 pm  · 
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rootseven

i want a train from DEN to the mid. mountains. RTD is getting there w/ the light rail...i still have hope.

Sep 14, 06 11:03 am  · 
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rootseven

Sprocket Design-Build...739 West. 6th
click

Sep 14, 06 11:05 am  · 
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SPYDER01

Moving to the area this summer, can anyone familiar with the area please update this thread.. thx

May 13, 09 3:08 pm  · 
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