The Denver Art Museum (DAM) located in Denver, Colorado, is a renowned cultural institution holding more than 70,000 artworks representing cultures across the world.
Founded in 1893, the museum has been expanded and has undergone several architectural additions. The Lanny & Sharon Martin Building (formerly the North Building or the Ponti Building) designed by Gio Ponti and James Sudler, opened in 1971, while the Frederic C Hamilton Building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, opened in 2006.
The North Building revitalisation project comprising the renovation of the existing North Building and development of the Anna & John J Sie Welcome Center was launched in January 2018 and opened in October 2021.
Denver Art Museum details
The Denver Art Museum includes three main buildings – the Lanny & Sharon Martin Building (the Martin Building), the Frederic C Hamilton Building (the Hamilton Building) and the Bannock Administration Building.
The Martin Building is the only completed project designed by Gio Ponti in the US. The LEED® [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] silver-certified building displays the museum’s encyclopaedic collections, which include Asian art, North America’s indigenous arts, photography, textile art and fashion.
The Hamilton Building was developed to host the museum’s growing collections and programmes and also includes the new Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center.
Located west of the Hamilton Building, the Bannock Administration Building accommodates more than 100 employees of the museum. It also includes the Frederick R Mayer Library and 9,000ft2 of collection storage.
Lanny & Sharon Martin Building details
Completed in 1971, the Martin Building was the first architectural expansion of the Denver Art Museum. The building was a different approach from traditional, temple-style museum architecture.
The Martin Building is eight storeys high and spans an area of 210,000ft². It features a castle-like facade and is installed with millions of reflective glass tiles and 28 vertical surfaces on the exterior.
In October 2021, the renovated Martin Building along with the new Anna & John J Sie Welcome Center was opened to the public. The project was undertaken with an estimated investment of $150m, and fully renovated and restored the Martin Building with updated collection galleries.
The Sie Welcome Center re-oriented the main entrance towards the Hamilton Building and created 50,000ft² of welcome space and visitor amenities such as a restaurant, café and improved wayfinding.
Frederic C Hamilton Building details
The expansion, taking the form of a separate building joining the existing museum via a 100ft enclosed walkway, was named the Frederic C Hamilton Building after entrepreneur Frederic C Hamilton, who served as the chairman of the Denver Art Museum since 1994. The 146,000ft² addition nearly doubled the size of the museum.
The Hamilton Building’s architecture is inspired by the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and consists of a series of wall planes. The new wing’s design is created out of a titanium skin cladding and sculptural form, which naturally meshes with the surrounding civic buildings.
The design consists of angular forms culminating in a cantilever that reaches across 13th Avenue. The innovative structure was realised through the dramatic use of metal (9,000 titanium panels), glass and stone (Colorado granite). It took more than a year to erect the steel structure of the building, and installation of the titanium exterior began in mid-2004.
Hamilton Building construction
Construction of the museum expansion began in July 2003. It required 2,740t of steel, 230,000ft² of titanium and 7,400yd³ of concrete. Almost all the steel was fabricated in the US.
The three largest steel beams weigh 550lb per linear foot and are 60ft long – so long that the only company able to fabricate the steel was based in Belgium. A 3D state-of-the-art computer programme was used to map the location of every steel rod before it was installed.
To make the Hamilton Building secure and stable, 116 vertical columns of steel and concrete extend from the building’s foundation into the bedrock. The Hamilton Building initially saw leakage from the roof due to its angular shape. This was, however, rectified by the general contractors.
Renewable materials and various recycling protocols were implemented during the construction process to minimise material waste.
The new extension to the Denver Art Museum was the first Daniel Libeskind-designed structure to reach completion.
The Sie Welcome Center houses two dining facilities including The Ponti on level 1, which features an outdoor terrace and indoor public and private dining spaces. It was developed in collaboration with James Beard Award winner and chef Jennifer Jasinski.
The museum also hosts the quick-service restaurant Café Gio, which offers casual dining as well as indoor and outdoor dining. It is located across the main hall from The Ponti.
The museum also features rooftop and outdoor spaces such as the Kemper Courtyard, a sensory garden, an amphitheatre and other areas for events.
Construction of the Hamilton Building was undertaken through public money. The budget for the project was $67m, though the estimated cost was $46m.
The public bond was projected to be $62.5m and the museum also raised an additional $23m through donations from individuals and foundations.
Interest from an endowment campaign, worth $60m, paid the museum’s increased operation costs after 2006. The money was raised by museum trustees to supplement the existing endowment of $32m. Frederic C Hamilton made a personal contribution of $20m to this fund.
The Martin Building renovation was funded through privately raised capital funds and a gift of $25m made by museum board chairman Lanny Martin and his wife Sharon Martin. In addition, $35.5m was provided through the Elevate Denver Bonds.
The Martin Building renovation was designed by architecture firms Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects. Buro Happold provided lighting design for the project.
Grundy Construction Management & Consulting was the construction management company for the project, while Saunders Construction was responsible for the construction.
Daniel Libeskind, an architectural studio based in Germany, was appointed as the lead architect in July 2000.
Soon afterwards, in August 2000, Studio Libeskind formed a joint venture with Denver-based Davis Partnership Architects to jointly design the Hamilton Building and the surrounding complex.
In July 2001, the MA Mortenson Company was selected as the contractor to build the Hamilton expansion. Arup, a professional services company, was the structural engineer.
George Sexton and Associates were the lighting consultants for the expansion and Gordon H Smith was the exterior facade consultant.
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, Lord Cultural Resources, BCER, MKK Engineers, JF Sato and Associates, Tekla, JRB Structural Engineering, LPR Construction, Zimmerman Metals, ArcelorMittal, Hunter Douglas and HKA Elevator Consulting are other contractors involved in the museum’s expansion projects.
The Bannock Administration Building was designed and constructed by Roth Sheppard Architects and Saunders Construction.