Architecture is art that surrounds us every day. There’s no need to go to a private gallery, museum or theater to soak it up. All you need to do is walk outside and look around.
This weekend, 61 Denver buildings will open their doors and invite the public to stroll amongst their halls as part of the annual free Doors OPEN Denver event .
Sponsored by the Denver Architectural Foundation, which strives to build public awareness and appreciation for architecture in the city, the two-day exhibition offers spectators guided tours of Denver’s most historically and structurally interesting buildings.
The annual event is funded by design and construction organizations including the American Institute of Architects Denver Chapter, the American Institute of Landscape Architects, the Association of Interior Designers, Downtown Denver Partnership as well as a variety of private architecture firms, contractors and other design and construction professionals.
The tenth season of Doors OPEN Denver highlights the theme “Celebrating Neighborhood Architecture,” which explores the varying structural stylings of the buildings from one area of the city to the next. A number of different neighborhoods are represented throughout the metro area, including Downtown, LoDo, Highlands, Capitol Hill, Santa Fe, Five Points, Park Hill, Uptown, Cherry Creek, Golden Triangle, the Mariposa District, Auraria Campus and Baker.
Featured buildings span from the late 1800s to present day and showcase an array of architectural offerings, from federal, state and city structures to residences, churches and re-purposed buildings.
Denver Architectural Foundation (DAF) administrator Jane Potts, who helps manage Doors OPEN Denver, says this year’s event includes buildings that were popular in previous years as well as new additions to the curated collection of real estate.
“It's important to see how the whole industry is taking on new ways to build differently and more efficiently,” Potts says.
The 61 buildings are carefully chosen by a committee of architects and contractors who are all immersed in the local architectural scene, according to Potts.
The committee’s familiarity with the buildings as well as input from past attendees helps inform the selection process from year to year. Contributing factors can range from historical significance to visual aesthetic and, as is the case this year, ecological efficiency.
In addition to new featured structures for this year’s exhibition, DAF has also boosted the variety and number of public tours. These are led by volunteer architects, landscape designers and historians.
Attendees can now hook up with a guide for a bike tour through the neighborhoods, a behind-the-scenes tour – getting into the nooks and crannies of some of Denver’s most prominent buildings – or a specific tour, such as the guided visits that take parties to all of the eco-friendly buildings certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Potts singles out the Denver Water Three Stone Buildings, a historic pumping center, as her pick for the most interesting building featured this year.
“It’s been overlooked all these years, and it’s this amazing, historic site that is beautifully preserved,” Potts says.
Doors OPEN Denver is a part of a national movement to introduce people to the architecture of their cities. Other major large-scale exhibitions include Open House New York, Open House Chicago and Doors Open Toronto.
Assistant dean at the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning Leo Darnell, who also has a professional and community background in architecture, says Doors OPEN Denver brings awareness to what’s happening within the city's urban landscape and how it affects the community as a whole.
“As people go through some of these guided tours, they see and understand the historical significance of some of these buildings and they also see what is currently happening,” Darnell says . "It’s important for the community to understand the city from both a historical and contemporary perspective, so the citizens can contribute, comment and help shape where the city is going.”