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.

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Commongrounds and Union Station

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Commongrounds Coffee House is a small coffee shop/lunch place in Lower Downtown Denver.  They are located in a large building, but only take up a small tenant space in the first floor.  I must be honest, I expected a lot better atmosphere from this shop.  Spatially the establishment functioned well, but the details could have been a lot more spectacular.

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The layout consisted of two larger seating areas on both sides of the door, separated by bookshelves.  Each of these seating areas were pleasantly situated by the large full-height storefront windows.  Another small seating area was situated just off to the side of the beverages counter.  The counter itself took up a large portion of the room, with coffee and tea ordering and creating to the far left, food ordered and made in the half-circle portion of the counter, and alcoholic beverages served to the far right of the counter.  Prominent signage, with their name and logo hung in another concave semi-circle behind the main counter.  Another small booth seating area occupied the back portion of the shop near the restrooms at the very back.

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Circulation ran smoothly, with people channeled through the main entry forced through on either sides by half-height bookcases framing the customer on both sides.  Main circulation revolves around the counter, and secondary circulation branches off to the various  seating spaces.

As stated before, the details were nothing extraordinary.  Furniture consisted of a variety of wooden chairs and tables,  the ceiling was exposed to the black painted ductwork, and lighting consisted mostly of downlighting spotlights.

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Union Station on the other hand is a pleasantly surprising space.  This building is indeed the main Amtrak Train and Bus Depot for Denver.  The entire building, exterior, and courtyard was renovated last year, once again making this space a pleasant one for the visitor.  The exterior courtyard is sprawling, with the building façade itself boasting a complex masonry cladding.

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Once you enter the building, through either side, you pass through a small airlock, and enter into the main waiting room.  A restaurant and bar, Terminal Bar, is situated at the front of the space, while the exterior spaces of the main room are occupied by gift shops on the left side and small restaurants on the right.  Cafeteria seating exists just outside Terminal Bar, and the rest of the spaces are arranged with couches, side tables, table lamps, and armchairs in comfortable and intimate settings, with area rugs defining each setting.  The middle portion is raised with two tale shuffleboard games in the middle flanked at each end by more lounge seating.  A florist station is setup at the end of this raised space, and some of the traditional high-backed benches have been placed at the far end of the station.  Train and bus access can be reached by a hallway to the very back right of the main lobby.  The three upper levels of the station consist of office space.

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Circulation happens in an orderly, orthogonal fashion.  Two main walkways go from the entries to the back, and cross to reach the trains, with secondary circulation splitting the lounge spaces and entering the restaurants and gift shops, and tertiary circulation spanning from the primary circulation to the raised portion of the station.

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In terms of details, the space was stunning, with the furniture lending to a homey, warm feeling, and the lighting giving a grand scale to the space.

Denver Public Library

The Denver Public Library Main Branch is located directly kitty-corner from the Denver Art Museum with the Capitol Building situated on the opposite corner.  The Main Branch is a solid, massive six story structure, with a brownstone clad main building and a white stone addition to the North.  The entrance is easily identifiable in the main building via a tower-like build-out jutting into the walkway and bringing the ceiling and entryway to a two floor expanse above the visitors head.

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Once inside the building, the visitor walks past the security guard and metal detectors, and enters into a four story tall atrium with the various collections of the library branching out to either side.  On the first level, the help desk and book return are located at the rear of the building, causing the visitor to walk through the entirety of the atrium for assistance.  Thankfully the library has appropriate signage to help patrons find their way around.  Subsequent floors are organized in the same manner as the main floor, but with different collections, of course.

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Circulation runs down the main aisle and branches out to either side to the book collections and media centers, with escalators as the main way to access the upper levels.  The escalators are located just on the outside of the atrium near the middle of the length of the building.

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Notable details include a interesting book return that looks much like a conveyor belt for borrowed material, sort of like the return belt for meal trays at the dining centers.  There were also a generous amount of seating nooks sprinkled throughout the different floors.

Signage within the building consisted of raised, gilded lettering on the green marble archways above each collection or as the visitor traveled down the main atrium.

Materials consisted of marble flooring, wood veneered arcades, columns, and beams within the main atrium, and painted gypsum board walls throughout, with carpeted floors within the collection spaces.

Note: images are included within the sketches as well due to busy spaces and time constraints.

St. John’s of the Wilderness Cathedral

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St. John’s of the Wilderness Cathedral is a sprawling Catholic church occupying an entire city block just north of the Capitol Building in Denver.  The complex consists of the original cathedral with further newly renovated construction branching off of the older building.  The Cathedral is built in the style of Gothic Revival with typical pointed arches, flying buttresses, massive piers, ribbed and soaring vaulted ceilings, heavy masonry walls, with large stained glass windows.

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The Cathedral’s program consists of two side aisles created by a stone arcade, and the main aisle running down the middle of the space on axis with the main doors and the raised ceremonial area at the front of the church.  Entry is afforded through the traditional large doors in the back, and the side door from the addition.  Pews are positioned in between the two arcades with a break about one third of the way down the aisle.  The clergy occupy the front of the church near the elevated pulpit, with lavers for ceremonial washing at the rear of the church and adjacent to the raised front.

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Main circulation takes place down the middle aisle with additional circulation on the edges of the space behind the arcades.

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Some of the details include the spacious stained glass windows depicting various Biblical imagery and stories.  The masonry frame of the windows is elaborate and arched.  Lavers for Holy Water are strategically placed throughout the church for washing at the entry and exit of mass, and near the tables for communion as well.  The pulpit is elevated above the main floor with an elaborate wrought iron handrail decorated with religious symbols such as crosses and phrases like “in Christ.”  Gilded pendants adorn the ribbing in the vaulted ceiling.  False columns also adorn the piers of the arcade and turn into the ribbing to support the roof.  Finally, a massive wooden organ occupies half of the back of the Cathedral.

Materials of the Cathedral consist entirely of stone blocks, with wooden pews, stained glass windows, wrought iron railings, and tapestries.

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Note: Some images are included due to the intricacy of the detail, and my desire for you to glimpse the intense beauty of the space which my own fingers could not fully capture.