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CUBISTRO ON SITE
Libeskind's Frederic C. Hamilton Building, The Denver Art Museum
SEPTEMBER 2004- INSIDE
Looking out the Prow
September 23, 2004 #86
I began taking photographs of the Hamilton Building in March of 2004, when the steel was just pushing up past the second floor and big triangles were starting to emerge. I had just heard Libeskind speaking and found his enthusiasm contagious. When I saw the powerful forms of overlaid and intersecting steel beams, I decided to record the emergence of the building for the Institute of Applied Cubism. The new architecture of the 21st century is being empowered by digital design and construction management. Complexities of form that never could have been considered before are now available to the architects of the world. The transience of the construction process, which Libeskind calls "the ever non-repeatable and optimistic act of construction," captivated me. I saw delightful angled compositions reminiscent of Russian Constructivism and, of course, the cubism of Picasso, Braque and Gris. I began my oil paintings on irregular shaped sub-strates in January of 2005. They were exhibited at the William Havu Gallery in Denver in March of 2007.
The Frederic C. Hamilton Building opened on October 7, 2006. This expansion of the Denver Art Museum is the first building by architect Daniel Libeskind to be built in North America. The 146,000 square foot building, covered in titanium panels, has four stories and houses both permanent and changing exhibits of contemporary fine art, American western art and African art. The most unique and challenging aspect of constructing the building was assembly 2,740 tons of structural steel. Relatively few of these frame members were vertical. The project relied heavily on computer models shared by the design and construction teams; the models were 4d, meaning that time and schedules were part of the models.
The building has a north-south alignment, pointing its ship-like prow across 13th avenue toward Denver's beaux-arts Civic Center Park, and separating the tile-covered Gio Ponti orginal art museum building and the Michael Graves expansion of the Denver Public Library. Libeskind also designed residential units called the Museum Residences across a new plaza from the Hamilton building. The combined development expands and reshapes the Civic Center streetscape, adding delighful new public space. Music and dance on the opening weekend demonstrated the Hamilton's sonic appeal, as music bounced off the tilted titanium walls of the east facade back onto the plaza below. The building has become a primary destination for tourists visiting Denver.
The building's angular form is polarizing; people love it or hate it. The spectacular atrium ascends so dizzyingly up through the floors, that many people experience disorientation and discomfort. The exhibit spaces offer immeidate relief. And the exhibit spaces do a practical job of showing the art. There is a lovely balcony on the west side, dedicated to sculpture, that puts visitors in a more intimate relation with the titanium-skinned building than that experienced at plaza level; they satisfy their curiosity and touch the building, leaving finger prints.
Click here for Paul Goldberger's architectural critique of the building in the New Yorker, 8/28/06