DAM Cool

One of Denver photographer's tribute to the city's most glittering architectural jewel.

October 2006

As a kid growing up in Arizona, I fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright. From Taliesin West in north Scottsdale, to Gammage Auditorium on the campus of Arizona State University, to his contribution to the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, each structure, a glorious harmony of form and function, offered a glimpse of Wright's vision and an escape from the mediocrity of my middle class surroundings in suburban Phoenix.

One of Wright's apprentices, Paolo Soleri, was still at work in Arizona building Arcosanti, a utopian compound filled with towering solar greenhouses and otherworldly interconnected shapes. We'd drive by year after year on family road trips and I'd press my face to the glass to see what progress had been made, what new forms had taken shape, to wonder if it would succeed.

Twenty years later, when the Denver Art Museum expansion project began, I would drive by daily, watching the steel structure go up, the cubist form take shape. Conceived by deconstructionist Daniel Libeskind, the structure is an explosion of steel and concrete fragments, and though Libeskind's vision lies in stark contrast to those of Wright and Soleri, his bold concept rekindles that old sense of curiosity and admiration. I was compelled to make frequent visits, to better grasp the reasoning in the design.

In the last year and a half I've photographed the emerging building more than 30 times: on days both perfect and blustering; in color and black-and-white; with wide-angle views capturing the radical placement of interconnected spaces and tightly zoomed frames revealing the underlying support. It is lovely, it is jarring, it is exceptional. It evokes, for me, and many Denverites, a very personal emotion. In my slow marking of its progress, I have come to feel its presence invaluable as it breaks from the conventional landscape, begs to be studied, and refuses to be defined.

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