Roof decks are increasingly a Big Thing in Denver — as they should be in a city so warm and sunny — and the Denver Art Museum is getting in on them.
In a presentation to Denver City Council’s Business, Arts, Workforce & Aviation Committee (which, yes, oversees a weird collection of things), Denver Art Museum Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Fulton updated councilmembers on the North Building Project. One big takeaway: there’s going to be a lot more lounge-friendly outdoor space.
Among the new amenities the North Building will boast are two outdoor terraces with views of the mountains and downtown Denver. This will be the first time the DAM has offered rooftop access in decades. The roof was accessible when the museum first opened, Fulton said, but that didn’t last long thanks to a number of safety concerns including a roof membrane too thin to have people walking all over it.
At the ground level, the newly remodeled space will be much more welcoming to visitors.
“We’re kind of redoing the whole front lawn of the museum to become a much more open and engaging space that’s meant to serve multiple purposes, including making it a more safe space for our school kids,” Fulton told the committee. “We see over 200,000 kids a year and can have up to five or six thousand school kids a day coming to the museum.”
The museum is also adding an outdoor amphitheater, and Fulton said there have been conversations with the Denver Public Library about sharing that amenity.
When it’s all done, the hope is that new “front lawn” of the DAM will create more of a sense of shared space not only with the library, but with the nearby Clyfford Still and Kirkland museums, neither of which were there when the DAM was first built.
Inside, the new North Building will have a welcome center with a grab-and-go café and a sit-down, white-table-cloth restaurant, as well as what they’re calling the Creative Hub and a lecture and event space that can host up to 600 people.
Right now, Fulton said, “people want to do things at the art museum and we just don’t have the capacity to do that.”
This is all part of part of the DAM’s Vision 2021 plan, which lays out five pillars that will help “make a difference in people’s lives by celebrating and stimulating creativity and inspiring greater understanding and connection with our world.” One of them is “campus.”
“Our goal around the North Building and the ‘campus’ pillar was to complete the campus, that it worked seamlessly as a whole and realizes the potential of the original North Building to optimize our ability to deliver knock-out and meaningful art experiences,” Fulton said in the committee meeting. “As you all know, that North Building was realized in 1971. It was one of the very first high-rise museums in the country — Denver Art Museum and the Whitney Museum in New York — that both kind of reshape how people thought about museum … to these more urban, high-rise structures.”
Overall, the museum is adding about 30,000 square feet of public space without increasing its footprint, Fulton said.
The project is expected to be complete in 2021. Kristy Bassuener, director of communications and public affairs at the museum, couldn’t provide a measurement of progress on construction but was able to say that “the project is moving forward quickly.”
“The welcome center structure now has a roof, and the museum team celebrated the final structural beam placement in December,” she wrote in an email. “The new windows in the North Building are nearly all installed, and the new bank of elevators is now under construction.”
Also among the updates: The new North Building will be better equipped for safe art storage, which includes a new HVAC system, a new vapor barrier and new windows, and the “Wheel” sculpture will likely be reinstalled near the Beverly Pepper sculpture (the one that looks like big, curved rock faces).
“The museum is working with Edgar Heap of Birds, the artist of ‘Wheel,’ on plans for the reinstallation of the piece,” Bassuener wrote. “Soil was captured at the time of deinstall and stored in order to re-use at reinstall. The current plan is to reinstall the work on the expansive green space adjacent to Martin Plaza and 13th Ave, near the Beverly Pepper sculpture. This large green space will allow for a for the larger community events that have the sculpture as focal point.”
If this all sounds familiar, that’s because MCA Denver is embarking on a similar effort to become not just a museum but a popular community space. In October of 2017, it announced an $18 million campaign to fund building renovations, expansion of the exhibition and programming platform and the launch of a civic art initiative to support Denver area artists. Those renovations will include a stage on the already-in-use roof, an expanded and renovated teen space and a redesigned entrance and reception area.
Now let’s look at some more renderings: