Every year Denver holds an event called Doors Open Denver. This is basically an Open House for the entire city of Denver, where the general public can either take guided tours of sites, or explore on their own various buildings around the city that are usually closed to the public, or just want to get their name out or celebrate design. This year 80 sites participated, ranging anywhere from office buildings to civic buildings to luxury condominiums to historic sites, to transit and event spaces. The theme of this time was Classic Denver, celebrating the old coming together with the new.
I visited four sites: Union Station (which you already saw a sketching exercise of), Gensler’s 16M, the Sugar Cube Building, and Boettcher Concert Hall. Our adventure started at the headquarters, Union Station, which was completely remodeled last year into a beautiful piece of architecture, preserving a lot of the original details, ornamentation, and massing, but also restoring it from a state of disrepair and bringing life to what was once a run-down, sketchy train station. After that we walked all around LoDo and Uptown and the Main Downtown area touring various buildings.
The first building we stopped at was 16M on 16th and Market Street, brand new luxury apartments and office space. This was by far the best tour. We entered into the lobby, a mix of classical, traditional materials with a sleek and clean modernist feel. The building is divided rather interestingly in that most mixed use, residential and commercial buildings are stacked. They are stacked with the commercial on the lower floors and the residential further up. This building was split in half vertically, with the commercial on the right side, having it’s own entrance, lobby, elevators, and security desk, and the residential located on the left side with it’s own entrance, lobby, and elevators as well. There was no security desk for them, however, the two lobbies are connected, and in order to use the elevators, the resident must use their key card and pin number. And their key card and pin number work for their floor only. They do not have access to any other floor. The building is equipped with high-speed elevators, making for a surprisingly quick ride to places like the fifth and seventh floor where we were given our tour. On the commercial side we were able to see into two current office spaces, tour the recreation room, which contained basic exercise equipment, but featured a glorious view and an outdoor patio. On the residential side we toured a two bedroom apartment, that had an equally amazing view of downtown off of their balcony, two full bathrooms, a large kitchen, and a large living room. Each apartment is different in floor plan, but they have anywhere from 2 bedroom apartments to 4 bedroom pent-house suites, and range anywhere from 2500 a month to 6500 a month. The layout was comfortable, placing the open kitchen and living room on the corner of the building with large open windows. The space felt private though, as the residences are set back towards the interior of the building so that you cannot see the street immediately below you, nor do you hear the traffic as much. One thing that I was a little surprised at though for high-end residences was the quality of the floor finishes. I expected something like actual hardwood flooring, but it was laminate with a hardwood veneer or printed on.
The next place we visited was the SugarCube building, which is also commercial and residential. Unfortunately as they are at 100% capacity, we were not able to tour any residences, but we were able to go up and look into a few of the commercial spaces. This space was again, immaculately built, with clean modern lines and exquisite lighting backlighting signage and warming up the corners of the lobby. The funny thing about this building is that it looks strikingly similar to 16M’s design. The building manager claimed that 16M took some cues from the SugarCube building, but that remains to be verified.
The next place we toured was the Boettcher concert Hall. Denver has an interesting district of town, right next to the convention center where they basically built a mega-indoor/outdoor pavilion building where all of the performing arts venues are located. The opera house is there, theatre, Broadway shows, concert halls, etc. This makes for a busy and exciting intersection of culture within Denver. The Boettcher Concert Hall itself is gorgeous. This stage is used mainly for Orchestra, Choral, and Symphony performances. It is rather interesting architecturally, as it was built in a circle. The stage is in the middle, with the seats all around, and balcony “rings” located even higher up.