The airy offices of klipp in downtown Denver contrast mightily with the drab �slice of an office� that founding principal Brian Klipp describes as his first.

Brian Klipp

In 1979, when he was 29, Klipp launched his own practice, hiring only a part-time receptionist, making the drafting tables himself and furnishing the remainder of the office from his apartment. “Yes, ignorance is bliss,” he says. “I charged in.”

Klipp also set the phone book on his desk and started calling possible contacts and clients, A to Z.

Now, 30 years later, Klipp and his architecture, planning and interiors firm of 50 have played a crucial role in many of Denver’s salient civic buildings. Among the highest-profile projects the firm has completed are the Denver Central Library (1990, with Michael Graves), Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center (2005), the Sage Building renovation (2008) and the Lindsey-Flannigan Courthouse (current).

The firm’s penchant for tackling multifaceted public and institutional projects took root in the 1980s. “I really fell in love with complex work, with the clients, the visible impact and influence on so many users,” Klipp says.

This reputation as the go-to architects for public and educational work, coupled with a varied and award-winning portfolio, has buoyed the firm through several recessions. Its dedication to design that is visually and functionally remarkable has continued to help it grow.

Form & Function

He insists that functionality be addressed with the same vigor as aesthetics.

“Buildings should really serve the needs of the users,” Klipp adds. “We are committed to that, to designing a building that is operationally functional, not only meeting program needs, but context.”

This year, Klipp is being honored as Architect of the Year by the AIA Colorado chapter. Among the criteria for the award are: service to the profession, service in the field of architectural education, public service to the people of Colorado and service to the building industry in the state.

Klipp says he takes his role as “citizen architect” seriously. He joined the Downtown Denver Partnership in 1994 and received an appointment in 1995 to the Denver Civic Venture Board, for which he is now serving his third term.

He embraces the Partnership’s advocacy for the physical well-being of downtown and has served on a number of committees that have enhanced the area’s business, cultural and residential environment. They include the Downtown Transportation and Development Council, 14th Street Streetscape Council and the Citizens Advisory Committee for redevelopment of Union Station.

Klipp is quick to share credit with the firm’s many clients. He says he’s lucky to work with them on a long-term basis because “one-on-one relationships build trust and make people willing to achieve things they might not otherwise.” He adds that some of his best projects have been completed for clients who became some of his best friends.

“They trust us and understand that our outcome is driven by their direction,” Klipp says.

He also lauds the talent that surrounds him daily at the firm’s 201 Broadway address. Joining him at the executive level to lead sectors are principals Alan Colussy (commercial), Kin DuBois (public), Gregory Cromer and Sam Miller (education), Jack Brokaw (advising principal) and Keat Tan (director of design).

“We have complementary skills among the principals and others in the firm,” Klipp says. “We care for each other, but we don’t always agree. All of us do our best work when working with other people.”

He says that, in the future, he hopes the firm will be “progressively more lateral; independent, but with cohesion and with intention.” He also underscores the importance of attracting fresh employees with skills and ambition.

“A constant infusion of new talent is the lifeblood of the firm,” Klipp says. “I never really wanted to work alone. I’m much more stimulated by a collaborative environment.”

Brian Klipp says his affinity for modernism and contextual design is “about understanding the forces on the building and deriving a composition that responds. This composition becomes art based on how the pieces fit together.”