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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The Lighting Agency

This month, a lighting manufacturer representative Humphries Poli works with, The Lighting Agency, celebrated the opening of their new showroom just west of the I-25 corridor near downtown.  In honor of their recent remodel, The Lighting Agency invited the many architects and designers that they have a relationship with from around Denver to either come to a lunch on Thursday or Happy Hour on Friday.  A few co-workers and I decided to attend, and so we took a longer lunch break on Thursday to visit the showroom.  First of all, the food catered there was amazingly delicious.  The showroom was breathtaking.  I appreciate how the showroom functions as an office for all of the employees, but also a staging space to give examples of the many different lighting products they carry.  The new design was tasteful, dramatic, and yet not overpowering.  It did a good job of showing fixtures that work well in conference rooms, hallways, kitchens, meeting rooms, stairwells, and office space.

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One of the coolest features took place in a conference room.  This conference room was fitted with a fully adjustable up/down light, as well as cove lighting and recessed down-lights.  All of the lighting was fully adjustable, not just dimmable, but color-changing as well as color temperature changing! The color temperature of the main suspended up-down lights could be adjusted from a very warm, comforting yellow 2400K to a cold, sterile white light of 4000K.  The difference in the atmosphere of the room and on the furniture selections and colors was astounding.  The entire room was also controlled by a single smart panel attached to the wall in which you can program different settings for the room or adjust the color temperatures, light levels, or which lights are on in the room as well.  The Lighting Agency had created even fun settings for the Broncos, Valentines Day, and St Patrick’s Day.  All of this color adaptation was achieved via LED lamps.

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Some other of my favorite features included recessed lights that lay flat along a wall or ceiling and run down the hall, creating striking accent lighting, way-finding, or emergency lighting.

All in all, they featured all sorts of luminaires for ambient lighting, focal lighting, and decorative lighting.  Each feature is useful and practical, as well as makes or breaks a space. Touring the showroom both inspired me and reminded me how important lighting is within architectural spaces.

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Above are some more examples of the luminaires The Lighting Agency showcases.

January Ski Trip

Breckenridge is a popular Ski and Snowboarding destination in Summit County, Colorado.  This quaint town not only boasts the largest area of terrain in Colorado for Skiing, but also consists of a main street with shops and restaurants, a river-walk, many seasonal events, and serves as a home for a sizeable local community.  Skiing is what it is most recognized for though.  This popular winter sport is enjoyed by many people in the Denver area as it is only a short hour and a half drive to the nearest ski resort.  A lot of locals will buy a season pass and go up every weekend to enjoy the snow.  This last weekend, the weekend of the 17th of January, I went up to hit the slopes as well.  The event of course was enjoyable, and the weather was beautiful, but this time I was able to observe an aspect of skiing that I have never keyed into before.  Most of the time I think of the process through which one actually goes skiing as fairly simple and mindless.  However, I realized this time that skiing is a fairly complicated activity, which involves quite a bit of planning and organization.  Even the process of simply getting up the mountain is a well-thought out machine.

The process starts when you enter the mass of people surrounding the chair lift.  Each group forms its own massing and slowly filters into wide lines roped off and branching out from the lift.

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Once in the appropriate line your group waits your turn until you reach the main branch and begin alternating into the main branch with the other lines.

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Once in the main branch your group moves forward to the lift, sometimes adding in singles if there is enough room, and wait at the line marked “Wait Here.”

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At this point, your group waits until the chair just passes by you to pick up the group in front of you.  When the chair passes you, you quickly move up to the next line marked “Wait Here.”  Once your chair approaches, you then look back over your shoulder and sit down when it reaches you.

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If everyone makes it safely on the lift, you ride the chair to the top, discuss with your group which direction you will head when you disembark, and then leave the chairlift.

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