Whether it’s at the espresso machine or the water cooler, there are a lot of conversations amongst Denver’s professional design community regarding Denver’s rapid development, and the arguably contested design character and quality that has defined many recent additions to Denver’s mixed-use, multi-color, multi-story skyline.
After marinating post water-cooler, these conversations recently became more “public” through the medium of writing. One only needs to look as far as Denver’s major publications to find a series of snarky blog posts regarding Denver’s “worst” buildings, or more studied editorials such as an Op-Ed in the Denver Post by local architect Jeff Sheppard. Most recently, a showcase article in Modern in Denver from Arch 11 claimed that “Modern is Not a Style,” providing an interesting perspective on how and why Denver’s recent “modern homes” do not follow the didactic thinking and principles of the actual modern movement in architecture.
What’s shifted is that these conversations are no longer being relegated to written word and informal conversation. Instead, they are becoming topics for large public forums and community dialogue, ultimately focused on raising awareness and, while vague in its measures of action or implementation, eliciting reactions that might resonate within design and development firms in Denver moving forward.
Just a few weeks ago, the AIA Colorado and ULI Colorado presented a discussion at the Denver Art Museum aptly titled “Denver is Booming: But is Design Quality Keeping Pace?” In the event description, the conversation was posed as a series of questions including, “Are we getting buildings and public spaces worthy of our city and region? Why so many look-a-like stucco buildings?”
A similar discussion related to Arch11’s recent aforementioned article will take place this evening at Modern in Denver’s first “Design Conversations” event, focusing on “Design’s decline in quality.. [this discussion will] explore what it means to be modern in principle…how as a community can we affect change…?”
I was just updated this event has reached full capacity—demonstrating both a need and desire for connection, dialogue, and eventually, measures that might lead to tangible change.
Denver is a city that continuously demonstrates an appreciation and alignment with grassroots, community-based measures geared towards incremental and arguably “positive” change. The current design discussions and red flags Denver’s design, real estate, and urban planning communities have come together to wave are both important and imperative to Denver’s rapidly-evolving landscape.
My hope is that while conversations like these may be important first steps towards creating a collective consciousness and concern regarding relevant issues, we must also address (and answer) the question: What are the steps (and who are the stakeholders) we must engage to actually see progress in improving the quality of architectural design and development in moving Denver forward?
Please feel free to respond to this post as yet another forum for aggregating thoughts related to this topic.