Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Denver: architecture and art

Most of H's family live in the exurban sprawl that joins Denver to other cities along the "front range" of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, I've been to Colorado numerous times over the past decade and a half, but never really gotten a chance to visit Denver as a city. My impression is that Denver is old, and urban, enough to still have some cool neighborhoods, but I've never seen them.

The one small bit of urban culture I've been able to fit in, both two years ago and also on this trip, is a trip to the Denver Art Museum. It is one of the cooler pieces of architecture I've seen in recent years. This time, I didn't take any pictures of the outside because I took a lot during our last visit in 2008 — imagine an angular spaceship with a long prow designed for breaking through space-ice or some such (the Wikipedia link above has a nice picture).

The angular addition is fairly new; I actually happened to read a review in the New Yorker a few months before our 2008 trip, which helped propel me there in the first place. The reviewer really liked the external features of the building, but complained that the odd shapes of the interior did not really lend themselves well to displaying much of the art.

The interior stairway is quite striking:

And many of the rooms actually provide a lot of wall space for hanging paintings — this one was awaiting installation, and gives you a sense of the space:

When I visited in 2008, I had to agree with the New Yorker reviewer. However, since then, I think they've gotten much better about finding art — especially installations — that work exceptionally well with the space. For example, these oversized kitchen knives, descending upon a doorway:

There was also an awesome installation that took up one odd-shaped room on the fourth floor:

The vein-like lines are, upon closer inspection, highways of various widths. They crawl all over the walls and ceiling:

And, my favorite part of the piece, tucked away in a corner that is not at all visible from the entrance to the room, a heart-like metropolis:

Another favorite installation was this red and gray installation of foxes and dinner tables:

Which was below a stairway and which you could walk through:

Finally, here's a couple of other cool buildings right around the museum. This one is, I think, the central Denver public library. It totally looks like it's made out of kids' building blocks:

And this one is, I think, high-end condos, built by the same architect as kind of a companion piece to the museum addition:

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