The new administration building for the Denver Art Museum broke ground at the end of April and is projected to be complete in spring 2014. The 50,000-sq-ft building will more efficiently house the museum’s 100-plus employees, including administration, curators and others currently located elsewhere and allow for closer collaboration among them.
In addition to staff offices, the privately funded, $11.5-million project will also contain a research library for scholars and 9,000 sq ft of collection storage.
The three-story structure is located on Denver Art Museum property in the city’s Civic Center. It was designed by Denver’s Roth Sheppard Architects to honor the iconic museum buildings surrounding it. It will be built directly west of the Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building and just south of the Clyfford Still Museum, designed by Allied Works Architecture.
While the museum's existing buildings were designed as “protectors of art,” the centrally located administration building will be more open and transparent. That will allow the alley that runs within the DAM complex to the east (to be renamed Still Way) to serve as a connector between the museum’s vibrant inner culture and the surrounding community. On the street side, a strong sense of connection between the inner workings of the DAM and passersby, guests and volunteers will be reinforced by a transparent, colored glass wall.
“Although deceptively simple in appearance, this building is richly layered in meaning,” said Jeffrey Sheppard, design principal at Roth Sheppard Architects. “As well, we’ve designed the structure’s exterior to ‘front’ on the alley to the east as opposed to the street side, to activate Still Way as the new cultural avenue where staff and the public can comingle while moving between the three gallery buildings. On the street side, where the entryway is a bit more protective and discreet, patrons and visitors will be invited into the museum's invigorating art world in a more private, yet elegant manner.”
Functionally, the museum’s new administration building has been designed to help museum staff serve the public by performing more efficiently and creatively. Visitors who enter the main floor off the street or alleyway will immediately encounter the high-energy curatorial and education work of the museum within a collaborative environment.
On the more discreet, stone-wrapped second floor, where patrons are invited into the culture of the art world, private spaces for the director and other administrative departments connect staff to the museum’s broader vision via views of the Hamilton and North Buildings to the east. A clerestory-raised roof and vertical three-story lightwell positioned above the exposed main stair bring daylight into the full depth of the interior, encouraging more productive interaction during the day.
The research library on the lower level is also positioned within the lightwell with nodes for informal and formal research. The two upper floors feature flexible, impromptu meeting areas and workstations around the perimeter to stimulate communication and allow museum staff to function more effectively across departments.
From an architectural perspective, the new building will establish a horizontal foreground that visually extends the base of the Clyfford Still Museum and references the geographic plains of Colorado. The underlying elegance of the office building’s exterior will also allow the verticality of the Hamilton and North Buildings to “read” without visual competition.