Down and Out in Denver

The Best Architecture of 2010

Posted in architecture, denver by Alastair on December 29, 2010

Boulder County Fire Training Center by Roth+Sheppard

‘Tis the time of year when architecture critics pause and reflect on what the year has meant for the built environment. The Denver Post’s Ray Rinaldi, in “Tough Year, Soaring Looks in Denver Architecture,” believes 2010 will “go down as the year ambition counted just as much as brick-and-mortar success.” I agree with many of  Rinaldi’s opinions, expecially his praise of Roth+Sheppard’s Boulder County Fire Training Center, pictured above. What I do have trouble with his appreciation of the new headquarters for Xcel Energy at 1800 Larimer, what appears to be just another 22 story box if you strip away the giant patches of dark glass applied about its glass and concrete bands in a seemingly random fashion. Rinaldi seems to praise the building on its “risk-taking,” suggesting that it might offer hope and faith to what’s to come in Denver. I’m all for pushing the envelope, which this building may or may not do, but what risk have the developers taken? Rinaldi is never very clear. He also suggests that the project takes an approach so “advanced” that “we may not get it for years to come.” Well great for those who get it, but what about the rest of us?

Here’s a sampling of some other year-end architectural reviews from around the country:

“Notes on a Year: Christopher Hawthorne on Architecture” Los Angeles Times
“From Towers to Plazas, a Year of Standouts” Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune
“Positive Changes around S.F. and Environs in 2010” John King, San Francisco Chronicle
“It Wasn’t All Bad: Bright Spots in LA in 2010” Frances Anderton, KCRW
“10 Best Architecture Moments of 2001-2010”
 Jacob Slevin, The Huffington Post
“New York Architecture: The Events of the Year” Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker

Modernism and Beyond

Posted in architecture, bars, denver, design, entertainment, food, gays, parties by Alastair on August 28, 2010

Friday evening was quite the experience for your DOD boys. They did indeed go to the Denver Modernism Show, but they did so much else last night as well.

Free drinks, entertainment, and special guests were the rule of thumb at the Denver Modernism Show Early VIP Gala… and they use the term gala very loosely. Black Tie it was not. Blake and I had the pleasure of being some of the first to shop the show, alongside our fellow modernism enthusiasts: Mr. and Ms. B, and the fashionable, Ginger Snap. We were kindly greeted, on multiple occasions, by Charles Phoenix, the self-proclaimed “King of Retro.” Our VIP tickets got us two free cocktails: Your choice of Mai Tai, Blue Hawaiian, or some other rum cocktail at the fabulously decorated Tiki Bar. Blake don’t care for rum, but I’ll drink just about anything, especially if it comes free with admission and an umbrella. We were also treated to live music, heavily tattooed hula girls, and some unmemorable entertainment. Yours truly fell in love with some serious chartreuse colored champagne/sherbet cocktail glasses (see below) by the versatile Russel Wright, designed to complement his recently reissued American Modern dinnerware. At twenty dollars a piece, I had to painfully pass, but they would have been a spectacular addition to a mid-century modern themed New Year’s Eve party.

Keeping in line with the mid-century theme, Ms. B suggested dinner and drinks at Bastien’s Restaurant and Steakhouse, located on East Colfax Avenue, near the Bluebird Theater. Blake has visited Bastien’s before, but this was Alastair’s first visit. Let’s say my expectations were not high, but I was tremendously pleased with my entire experience.

Bastien’s is an old school steakhouse and bar with an interesting architectural design. Started by William Bastien in 1937 when he bought out the Moon Drive Inn, the present twelve-sided building was constructed in 1958 and has a sort of subtle Googie flair—an exaggerated modern architectural style seen in the coffee shops, bowling alleys, and motels of the 1950s and 1960s. After a drink at the bar lounge, Blake and I, alongside Mr. and Ms. B and Ginger Snap sat down for a wonderful dining experience. Now, Bastien’s is not inexpensive, but compared to the prices we pay at Potager, this was a bargain and we were well fed! We all started with salads. I had the Caesar, while everyone else had the Ice Berg wedge with Blue cheese dressing and bacon crumbles. My salad came with grilled romaine, a very nice touch, and plenty of shaved parmesan cheese and croutons, along with a tasty balsamic reduction and a DOD favorite, anchovies! Ms. B received something that looked more like half a head of lettuce, rather than a wedge. But who’s complaining!

Moving onto dinner, Blake ordered LaLa’s Steak, a ten ounce New York steak grilled with fresh lime and cracked pepper, served with fresh peppers and pico de gallo. Mr. and Ms. B went with a German theme. Mr. B enjoyed his Beef Liver sautéed with onions, “just like mom made,” and seasoned mashed potatoes. Ms. B seemed very pleased with her wiener schnitzel. Ginger had the pork chop special and I chose the ten ounce New York with Deep Fried Shrimp. It came with a reasonably sized baked potato with sour cream, butter, cheese, and chives, and the steak was perfectly cooked to a true medium rare. Delicious! We ended our meal with some apple pie sizzling skillet dessert with vanilla ice cream. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.

After going our separate ways, Blake and I enjoyed a brisk walk down Colfax to grab ourselves a night-cap at HER BAR located at Colfax and Washington. According to the website Fridays at HER BAR are FemmeBar with DJ Love, who seemed to be spinning an eclectic mix of 80s new wave and current hits by Usher, Gaga, and others. We grabbed ourselves a seat at the bar and a drink. Blake was intrigued by reruns of The Nanny projected onto an interior wall. Is Fran Drescher a lesbian?  Is there some lesbian connection that we DOD boys are unaware of? Clearly, the Nanny was a gay icon… I mean look at those highlight clips on YouTube. Just saying.

In any case, the DOD boys seemed to be a magnet for the more interesting ladies enjoying themselves last night. My friend, whose name I did not catch, was clearly a fan of the drink. Tired of waiting for a refill and patience running thin, she decided to continually stand then sit until finally waving her hands in the air as though she was directing a 747 from its final approach to the gate. Blake’s lady friend, Nila, was much cuter than mine… but perhaps just as drunk. I don’t know much about Nila, but the girl liked to dance… and apparently found the two of us very interesting. We later met her gal pal Fay, who had no idea “what was going on.” As the night went on, Nila became even more friendly. I think she may have slightly molested Blake as Fay and I chatted offline. I hope that Nila understood that she wasn’t going to get very far. In any case, we found HER (or HER, or HER, or HER) BAR lots of fun and an amusing way to end the evening. We’ll be back Nila, don’t you worry your pretty little big pocket shorts! And the DOD boys will have their dancing shoes with them next time!

Aspen Art Museum Moves Forward

Posted in architecture, art, design by Alastair on August 13, 2010

This week in the New York Times, Robin Pogrebin reported that The Aspen Art Museum is proceeding with the purchase of land in downtown Aspen for the construction of a new building designed by the architect Shigeru Ban, pictured above. They’ve made public the design concept and preliminary model of the 30,000-square-foot wood-and-glass structure. The museum also announced that the new building will include 12,500 square feet of exhibition space, a roof-deck sculpture garden, a classroom, museum shops, cafe, offices and storage.

The Aspen Art Museum has some less-than-inspiring images of the proposed project. For a visual arts institution you might expect something a little more sexy. In any case, I’m a little confused… the project was announced back in 2008 and when you head directly to Shigeru Ban’s site you see what must have been the original proposal (?) when the project began. Two similar but different looking designs, but no mention of the changes anywhere in the press.

The Heidelberg… Fantastisch!

Posted in architecture, capitol hill apartments, denver by Alastair on March 13, 2010

I grew up in a rather small suburb of an East Coast city far, far away… It wasn’t always a life of bright lights and big cities for dear, old Alastair. Right next door to my hometown was an even smaller town named Heidelberg. As you might  imagine, it was a community primarily occupied by immigrants: Irish, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian, and German. Thanks to this experience, I love a good pierogi, pampushky, and golumpki (aka stuffed cabbage rolls) every so often. So, when I stumbled across the Heidelberg, located at 1270 Marion Street, it was love at first sight. 

My mother had a wonderful collection of German beer steins and I often have thoughts of passing the Heidelberg one day… door ajar… and sounds of German drinking and beer garden songs coming from within… Tausend Fasser Bier or Kranzerl Polka. Who doesn’t love a good old German Oom-Pah Band!? A boy can dream… 

Aren't you boys cold in those shorts?!

 

Das Heidelberg ist fantastisch!

The Gaucho

Posted in architecture, capitol hill apartments, denver by Alastair on March 7, 2010

You may have read my past posts (here, and here) regarding my obsession with Capitol Hill apartments and more specifically the unrelated names often given to them. Well, I’ve made little progress finding out why the trend is so prevalent in Denver, especially when compared to the other cities I’ve lived in. However, that’s not going to stop me from continuing to share these little gems with all of you. I’ve also decided to make the experience a lot more fun for everyone. Introducing the Gaucho, located at E. 12th Avenue and Clarkson.

Gaucho, 1201 Clarkson

Don’t be fooled, the Gaucho is an apartment building, not a church.

Gaucho Signage

The gaucho… a romantic image of the past, represented freedom from colonial control… the dusty boots, poncho, his bandy legs, and an untamed spirit. Massive estancias. I present to you the Gaucho, re-imagined:

The Gaucho: Reimagined

 

Doors Open Denver 2010

Posted in architecture, denver, design by Alastair on March 2, 2010

Doors Open Denver is a free two-day event that celebrates architecture and design. The event is designed to create access, awareness, and excitement about good design in Denver. It’s also a great opportunity to go behind the scenes of the city’s many historic and modern architectural sites, as well as lesser-known treasures typically inaccessible to the general public. This year’s program is being held Saturday, April 17  and Sunday, April 18, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Capitol Hill Apartments

Posted in architecture, capitol hill apartments, denver by Alastair on January 27, 2010

As you may have read, the apartment buildings of Capitol Hill are some of my favorites. See The Patrician. I don’t know of any particular reason for the names but one street is called ‘Poets Row” because of the naming. In an attempt to find out more, I’ve recently contacted a Denver historian to see if they could shed a little more light on the subject.

In the meantime here’s another gem from the neighborhood, the Galaxy, located at 1260 Humboldt Street. Perhaps the only space-aged feature of this structure (which now houses condominiums) is the distinctly Jetsons-esque typeface employed on the front of the building to spell out its name.

The Galaxy

Design After Dark

Posted in architecture, denver, design, fashion, food, parties by Blake on January 27, 2010

So much fun did Alastair and I have on Friday night at Design After Dark that it’s taken us till today to report on it.  DAD is the big fundraiser for the Denver Art Museum’s Department of Architecture, Design, and Graphics, and this is the third year in a row that Alastair and I have attended.  And aren’t we glad we did!

The event was packed, filled with the art and design crowd of Denver (yes, such a thing exists!  we promise): architects, fashion designers, graphic designers, furniture designers, artists, and all kinds of admirers and fans.  One of the things this means is that some of the people were actually well dressed!  I know, I know, difficult to believe; this is Denver, after all.  But when you get this many design-conscious people in a room you actually get some decent outfits as well.  People’s clothes fit! (Including men’s pants and jeans; on this issue, see Alastair’s recent post here.)  And some might even be called fashion forward.  Alastair and I don’t flatter ourselves that we necessarily fit into that category — we dress ourselves in the well-fitted grays and blacks of the sophisticated urban homo; tasteful and understated without pushing the envelope too much — but we recognize interesting fashion when we see it.  And it was there to be seen this past Friday!  Of course because there are so few chances to dress up in Denver, some people took this as an opportunity to go a little overboard.  Word to the wise, ladies: prom dresses are for one occasion only.  And some of the boys suffered from the opposite problem, natch: jeans and sloppy shirts untucked.  This is Denver.

DAD winner by Semple Brown Design and Cataform

But enough of dress.  This years’s DAD theme was SKIN and so all contributing designers fashioned a composition with skin as its theme.  These pieces were offered up in a silent auction, as were many other items (at least twice as many as last year) donated by local businesses and individuals: artwork, furniture, gift certificates, accessories, you name it.  The auction process could have been a little more streamlined, it must be said.  There was some confusion about when it actually closed, meaning that some people bid within the allotted time but had their bids discounted by overzealous auction-closers with red markers. Yours truly lost out on a truly bizarre looking lamp that I thought was a lock.  Alas…

The drink — wine, beer, and vodka cocktails — was included in the price of entrance, doing away with the complicated drink-ticket system of years past.  Wise move, planners!  And while the food was just as tasty as last year, there was definitely less of it.  Some of us need to buffer that open bar with a little sustenance!  That said, it was all tasty, especially the Asian-themed table complete with any number of dumplings, won tons, crab rangoon, and spring rolls.  All in all, the DOD boys had a fantastic evening.

We wish all DOD readers a great weekend as we jet off to opposite coasts for some more fun and excitement away from the surprisingly design-conscious state of Colorado!

The Patrician

Posted in architecture, capitol hill apartments, denver by Alastair on January 18, 2010

The Patrician, located in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood at East 11th Avenue and Corona Street, is just one of the innumerable apartment buildings and complexes around Denver that have been given a proper name. It’s a feature of Denver that has always intrigued me and is something that I only recall experiencing in such great numbers during my time in London. What’s particularly fascinating is that in most cases, but not all, the name given to the building and its design or architectural style often have little to no shared features or attributes. Seriously, what’s so patrician about The Patrician? And why are so many apartment buildings in Denver given these names? Well, Alastair is hitting the pavement and scouring the Denver Public Library to find out. Stay tuned.

The Patrician

Friday Night Lights

Posted in architecture, bars, design, parties by Alastair on January 17, 2010

Happy Sunday readers and greetings from Hi*Rise. I am happy to report that I have finally recovered from my Friday night out… which quickly became Saturday morning. And it was well worth the loss of my entire Saturday. 

Looking to escape our mid-winter blues, Blake and I started the evening off crashing a Denver Art Museum event at SPIRE—a recently completed forty-one-story condominium building at 14th and Champa streets in downtown Denver.  (If you have any interest in high-rise living stop by their sales room across the street at the Convention Center.) The event was an intimate gathering of just over two hundred well-heeled architects, designers, artists, and design enthusiasts of every age and background. The evening was a sort of pre-party celebration for the department of architecture and design’s annual fundraiser, Design After Dark. If you haven’t been to Design After Dark, I highly suggest dropping by RedLine Gallery this Friday, January 22. The event is a “a dynamic and diverse celebration of design.” Funds raised through ticket sales and a silent auction are used to support programming for the department. The centerpiece of the event is some “30 one-of-a-kind objects created by Colorado’s most recognized architects, artists, and designers.” Blake and I are attending for our third year in a row and the event never disappoints. It feels like something we’ve seen in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago and who can pass up the great food and an open bar! This year’s theme is SKIN.

Design After Dark 2010

 

After hob-nobbing with Denver’s design community and taking in the sights from SPIRE’s ninth floor: modern furnishings, rooftop terrace, pool, fire pit and most importantly, the open bar, Blake and I headed over to the legendary Cruise Room with some of our gal pals. Somewhat difficult to find, the Cruise Room is located just off the main lobby of The Oxford Hotel. It’s one of those places with an atmosphere that immediately transports you to another time and place. They are known for their martinis, but I often choose the Manhattan or Old Fashioned. The Art Deco décor and dim red lighting is a must-see. Original chrome and neon reflect onto the wall panels depicting “toasts” from around the world.

Here’s to a successful Friday night in Denver. Kompai!

The Cruise Room