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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Slate Commentary on The Mile-High Club

Comments (5)

I’m in love with The Hamilton Building – the expansion to the Denver Art Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind.  Not everyone is – Slate had a generally critical photo essay titled “The Mile-High Club: Why Experimental Architecture Isn’t Working Out For Denver” that was forwarded to me by my friend Ben.  In it, the author Witold Rybczynski shows the three signature buildings that are clustered together with his commentary.  He has great photos of The Hamilton Building, Gio Ponti’s original Denver Art Museum (built in 1971), and Michael’ Graves’ Denver Public Library (built in 1996). 

Rybczynski concludes that “the three buildings in Denver make an odd grouping.  Not a success – they simply don’t add up to anything meaningful – but an interesting failure. For one, they reflect the different faces of architectural Postmodernism: Aestheticism, Historicism, Expressionism. Architecture’s tottering, wayward course between 1970 and 2000 is all here. These buildings also show the peril of shock as an architectural compulsion…  Shock is delightful in an amusement park, but in a building it can only, in the long-run, prove an anticlimax.”

While I’ll never be an architecture critical (or professor) – my reaction to these three buildings is the opposite.  When standing at a place where you can see all three, my reaction is a simple “whoa.”  They are extremely different styles – all expressing deep creativity – that provoke strong emotions.  When you do a 360 and look at all the surrounding buildings, the cluster of the these three building are a bold and radical statement in the middle of an otherwhile bland, typical, and unremarkable scene.

I guess Rybcznski’s experience with the Mile High Club is not as positive as mine.

  • mark

    I used to lead architectural tours in Chicago and one of the topics that I always addressed was the principle of contextualism. People always enjoyed being able to see the subtle or not-so-subtle themes taken from surrounding buildings and geography. The extent to which architects and critics make the principle such an orthodoxy has always surprised me. I’m always excited by buildings or developments that make a leap, like Prospect in Longmont, the Denver art museum, or the new Museum of Contemporary Art.
    Why is coherance so necessary in architecture when every other art form celebrates revolution?

  • Bruce Wyman

    Eh, even Impressionism was experimental and controversial at one point. If you don’t push the extremes, how do you learn anything?

    Having been inside the building, I can tell you visiting the museum won’t be just another square room after square room like so many other potentially forgetful art museum visits around the world. The art inside, the building itself, the way you relate to the space, all work together to create an experience that you’ll always remember.

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