Doors Open Denver

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.

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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.

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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.

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Week 15

This week I worked on a few different projects again.  I continued to work on McNichols, redlining  and figuring out whether our plaza steps at the entry will be able to have tiny LED lighting recessed within them for dramatic appeal at night.  I also helped design and build in Revit with Kelly and Ozi what the stairs from the first floor to the second floor will look like.  We needed to upgrade these stairs to meet code, but of course they have to be more than just concrete cast in place, so we are playing with glass guardrails, possibly acid etched mimicking the pattern of the intricate historic iron guardrails from the second to third floor, treads and risers within a stringer made from a c-beam, much like the 2nd floor stairs as well, and lighting underneath the stairs, covered by glass as well.

I also spent a good chunk of time this week working on initial design options for Eagle Library.  I had to get in contact with the Town Planner to figure out the regulations for parking which are 1 spot per 100 sf, and we typically suggest 1 per 250 sf.  So we needed to figure out if we could suggest something other than the requirements set up by the Town of Eagle.

In addition to these two larger projects I worked on putting together a poster for the Historic Elitch Theatre to show the renovations that have been completed and are in progress.  This poster was requested of us by the Elitch Theatre for the Doors Open Denver event this weekend, kind of like a giant open house all over Denver.  Finally, I pulled together some cut sheets for another designer, Eric, for lighting in 35th and Larimer, a multi-family housing complex.  I was also able to select a main lighting feature for the lobby area of this building.

Play this Game to Come Up with New Ideas

Shimpei Takahashi is a Japanese toy designer, which some of you may heard of because of the toy that he developed which is basically bubble wrap that you can pop over and over again.  In this Ted talk, Takahashi shares his story of when he first began designing for his company.  He came to his boss with many new ideas every day, but his boss responded with asking him how the market trends data supported these ideas.  Takahashi had not been looking at data, so he began analyzing the data, and found that this method of designing squashed his creativity.  So after struggling with this and going nowhere, Takahashi began playing games such as Shiritori, which is a word game, where you shuffle through many words, with the next word starting with the first letter of the last letter of the previous word, such as cat-time-exit-trombone, etc.  By going through so many different, seemingly random processes, your brain is able to make connections and combine new ideas that you may not have thought of before.  Then, when you come up with so many ideas at a time, surely one is going to hit the mark of the target you are aiming for.

If I play this game with the Eagle Library to come up with concepts, it might look something like this…I know from our mind-breaking sessions with clients that Community was a huge theme throughout many of our conversations.  The game of Shiritori might look a little something like this then:

Community-yoga-apple-everyone-energy-youth-Hercules-snow-water-racetrack-king-graffiti.  This might lead to an idea for using graffiti throughout the library as a way of signage and connection and building community.

Takahashi, S. (Director) (2013, May 1). Play this Game to Come Up with Original Ideas. Ted Talk. Lecture conducted from TedxTokyo, Tokyo.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Neighborhood dynamics are changing in many cities across the nation and Denver is no exception.  The neighborhood that I have been living in this semester is a neighborhood of several ethnicities, generations, and time periods.  The original houses were built in the 1950s, but is now being inundated with young families and young professionals.  The three different people groups in the area consist of Caucasian, Hispanic, and an Orthodox Jewish sect.  There are Millenials, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.  The housing market in Denver is booming, prices are skyrocketing, cultures and generations are mixing, and new apartments and homes are being constructed every day, all of which reflect the human dynamics around them.  In my neighborhood the mix consists of ’50s bungalows, classic or Victorian revivals, and modern styles.

In order to give a sample of these dichotomies, below are a sampling of houses within just a two block radius of my residence.

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House #1:  My Residence, Classic ’50s Bungalow

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This residence has actually been split into three apartments, with a high central two story unit, with lowered side units, brick façade, large roof overhang, and full size windows on the corners of the building.  Since this is my residence, I know that the landlords are Caucasian Baby Boomers, another couple are Caucasian Gen Xers, and another woman is an Asian Gen Xer.

House: #2: My Favorite, Victorian Revival

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This residence is split into two dwelling units.  Whereas my apartment was split into three residences post-construction, this house was meant to look like a single home but house two families.  I love the wrap-around porch with intricately carved posts, the turret on the right, and use of round windows in various places of the façade.  Also, the use of blue paint is refreshing in a world of browns, greys, and whites.

House #3: Modern Multi-family

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Again, this is another home that was intended to look like a single-family home, but made for three families to live in.  With limited floor space, the house extends to three levels, whereas typically homes are thought of as single or double story buildings.  This house also mimics several other homes in the area, with live-able rooftop space.  Utilizing the roof within a packed city is a great way to have personal outdoor space when there is limited space for land or a yard.  Something that I find interesting about these residences made to look like one home is that it reduces the amount of “cookie-cutter apartments and condominiums” but still utilizes space efficiently, and fits in with a neighborhood environment.

House #4: 1950s Bungalow

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Again, this house features tan brick, with windows to the sides of the homes, and long, gently sloping eaves extending over the house.

House #5: Modern Style

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This is yet another multi-family dwelling that resembles a large single family home.  This is more of a modern mountain style, with both brick and stucco façade, large windows, and linear railings and truss work up to the balcony.

House #6: Classical Brick Dwelling

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This home is a tiny house, with a fairly sizeable backyard.  At first I highly disliked the all brick façade, but I have grown to appreciate it with the cottage style of house.  This one is unique for the fact that it features somewhat of a dormer main window in the front room, high pitched roof, and arched front doorway.

Week 14

This week at Humphries Poli was jam-packed with exciting events and happenings.

I knew I would be traveling to Eagle, Colorado with Dennis on Tuesday, so Monday was spent preparing all the materials we needed for our mind-breaking sessions with the library staff of Eagle Valley.  This included printing and cutting and organizing tags for the Building Breaking activity, printing floor plans, google earth maps of the site and surrounding neighborhood, and large sheets with the various categories for the Mind Breaking activity.

Tuesday, Dennis and I left the office at 6:30 in the morning to be there for our first session at 9:00 in the morning.  Honestly, it is probably one of the more beautiful drives to get up early for.  During the driving portions, Dennis regaled me with stories of different projects he has worked on, what it is like working in the public sector, people he has met along the way, committee’s he has served on, as well as Chair positions he has held.  Dennis is someone who is very passionate about design as well as serving the community where he is at.  That is probably why all of the projects he works on honor the community and environment around them so well.  He held the Regional Presidential Chair of AIA for a while, and was asked to serve on the national committee as well, but decided he wished to make an impact on the people whom he would be speaking to everyday, and the place where he was living.  He also participated on a lot of work for Civic Center Park in Denver to revitalize the park and turn it into something that was beautiful, usable, and honoring to the city instead of what it was previously, a mecca for druggies and homeless people.  In order to do this, at one point they hired Daniel Libeskind to do some concept work for the park.  At the time, Daniel Libeskind had recently built the Denver Art Museum just to the south of Civic Center Park.  It ended up not working out with Mr. Libeskind, but because they were clients of his, Dennis was invited to attend Libeskind’s 60th Birthday Party at Rockefeller Center.  That is just one example of the many relationships he has been able to build through his involvement around the city and through the firm.  On the way back I asked him what advice he would give to a younger Dennis, and so I will pass that knowledge on to you as well.  Dennis recommends, “Get involved!”  Whether it is with your church, AIA, Landmarks Preservation, a homeless shelter, whatever, get involved with your community, build relationships, find out what is going on in the location where you are, and do something about it.  We have the privilege to impact and literally BUILD our environment, so don’t selfishly keep your talent, knowledge, and perspective to yourself.

In regards to the actual sessions with the Eagle Public Library Staff, we held a morning session and an afternoon session which were basically identical.  We started with a presentation by Dennis, introducing who we are, what we are doing, and then basically showing lots of images and examples of different aspects of libraries, while the participants were instructed to write down things that they liked and did not like on separate sticky notes for later activities.  After this, we participated in two different activities: the first, mind-breaking where large sheets were hung around the room with different categories like Children’s Spaces, Reading/Shelving, Technology, Staff Spaces, Sustainability, etc. and the participants placed their sticky notes within the various categories.  The second activity was building breaking, where we had sets of tags printed out with different categories such as front door, best view, children’s, adult, book drop, meeting room, makerspace, etc. and the participants placed them on existing floor plans where they thought the different areas should go, as if they were the architect for a day.  We then had a discussion about the building breaking as well as the mind-breaking.  This was very helpful to see them get inspired and excited, and really engage with their space and inform us of what was important to them, or what they needed.  We will see what happens from here.  Right now our scope is to only provide concept work for them to allow them to see what they would like to do from here on out.

The rest of the week was spent organizing and beginning a report and a sketchup model for Eagle Public Library, as well as some work on McNichols.  I actually got to visit the McNichols building on Thursday with Kelly for a site visit.  We had a lot of items to verify, dimensions of the interior, staircases, and lighting layout.  I have discovered that accurately building and modeling architecture that is both historical and existing, where you are renovating and not demolishing, is difficult.  The only drawings we have to work off of are plans from 1906, the building was actually completed in 1910, and has undergone work since then.  Also, we inherited the current Revit model from people who no longer work at Humphries Poli, so when our Revit model was vastly different from Structurals Revit model, we needed to verify a lot of items.

Other exciting events from this week including re-arranging our studio, so I now sit in a completely different spot from where I have been.  We also had a “Fresh Designs” presentation on Wednesday night that I attended.  This is when we ask a fellow employee to present their recent work, from college, or wherever they worked previously, and from Humphries Poli in the evening right after work.  This is fascinating to see what other architecture firms are doing, or have done, and ask questions and get to know a co-worker a little better.  Various micro-brews are consumed as well.  We are also at the very beginning of a 21 week long celebration of the firm’s birthday, so the first e-blast was sent out this week, and we held a lick and stick party to mail out the 1000 invitations to our 21st birthday party on May 21st.  Thankfully I will still be working there at that time, so I will be able to celebrate too!  The final exciting piece of this week was very special and I am glad I was able to be there to experience it.  Yesterday Dennis and Joe, current principals, founders, and owners of the firm, announced that Ryan and Jane are now owners and principals of the firm as well.  This was wonderful to witness, as Dennis remarked that they never thought they would make it this far, and Joe commented that he was sure they would make it three months, but to find people who would want to carry on Dennis and Joe’s legacy is something they had not even dreamed of.  It is a little bit like a father being proud of his child graduating from college.  All in all, this has been an exciting week at HPA.

Liteon Eco Leaf

The Liteon Eco Leaf is an up and coming window blind.  The Eco Leaf is designed to mitigate intense direct sun traveling through a window, provide adequate ventilation, as well as store energy to use for gentle lighting when the sun goes down.  The fabric has integrated solar cells that recharge in sunlight, then release the light later in the day.  The product is meant to imitate leaves, absorbing energy, providing shade, allowing for soft light as well as ventilation.

This product boasts of keying in on three items: having a low carbon life, being seamless and simple in design, and also incorporating smart technology.  The window blind has low energy consumption, and clearly uses passive technology to store energy.  Liteon also controls the amount of sunlight coming through the window, allowing for shade as well as ambient light.  Eco Leaf includes smart controls in an inconspicuous display at the bottom, allowing time, weather, etc to be displayed.  The product is also easily stored and maintained.

The entire piece is assembled on a railing, with a pull mechanism to raise and lower the blind.  Then the product is created in layers, with a translucent fabric made of polyester filament as the first layer, followed by a hybrid display (e-ink in the daytime, and oled at nightime).  Finally there is a sheet of solar cells and a backing of translucent fabric again enclosing the piece.  A battery cell exists in the rod to store energy.

Seth, R. (2011, November 15). Liteon Eco Leaf. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.yankodesign.com/2011/11/15/power-blind/

Week 13

This week consisted of two intense projects.  Last week Kelly took a trip up to Ft. Collins to start a new mixed use historical preservation project.  This project consists of taking an old Feed and Supply building near the railroad tracks, renovating it, and dividing it into several business, retail as well as restaurant.  My job was to take the as built plans and elevations, which were very poor and lacking quite a bit of information, using Kelly’s photos and measurements from the site visit and creating a Revit file of the building to then deliver to the main architects, Roth Sheppherd which is also located in Denver, for them to begin concept sketches on the project.  Our job in this project is not to be the head designers, but point for the client to try and get a historical grant, as well as advice them on all of the specifications to meet landmark preservation standards and restrictions.  Therefore, it was very important in the Revit drawings to capture the important historical aspects such as the existing façade, grain elevators, windows, roof, headhouse, etc.  Honestly, the building was what I like to call a franken-building, and has seen better days.  I am glad that it will be receiving a facelift, yet keep it’s historic value, details, and charm.

The rest of the week was filled with finishing this phase of work on the McNichols model, which included alterations to the third floor lobby, stairs, and access to the catwalk, all of which I was responsible for modeling the changes.

The very last part of my week was spent beginning to gather materials and prepare for a trip I will be taking with Dennis early next week up to Eagle, Colorado, just thirty minutes west of Vail for a workshop with the staff at the library up there, to gather information from our clients of what they are looking for and beginning that new relationship.