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Tom Gallagher has always been good at math. In high school, when he added up his skills—clever with numbers, a solid drawer, introverted, interested in the arts—the equation led to just one career: architecture. After earning his master’s degree at the University of Nebraska, he moved to Colorado—and, like many transplants, never left. The 49-year-old is currently a principal at Semple Brown Design, where he’s applied his creative calculations to geometric single-family homes, urban infill projects, and now, to the new permanent stage at Hideaway Park in Winter Park, which opens June 22 with a concert by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. We sat down with the architect to discover whom he’d most like to see perform at the venue—and where he looks for inspiration after two decades in the profession.
On His Concert Pick
“I would love to see Itchy-O at any venue. It’s not so much about the music; it’s about the experience. [Or I’d pick] Balkan Beat Box.”
On Hideaway Park Stage
“The town said, ‘Give us three really distinct concepts to work with.’ We had two that were fairly conventional—and then we had this [the winning design] that started vaguer. I couldn’t really put my finger on exactly what we were referencing, but I knew it had to do with snow and the lines that you see in the landscape, be it the skyline, or the profile of the mountains on the sky, or the layering of mountains as you come down off a mountain pass, or even looking at fresh powder with fresh tracks in it—just that geometry. So we found a way to make that buildable.”
On Local Neighborhoods
“I love the energy that’s happening in Denver—like in River North. I just love the grittiness of it and hope that doesn’t go away.”
On Colorado’s Natural Bounty
“All architects talk about the light in Colorado—it really is so sharp and so distinct—both in the way that you use it to sculpt the building from the outside, and in the way you can use it on the interior to naturally light spaces. It’s just more pleasant to be in.”
On His Architectural Muse
“[Swiss architect] Peter Zumthor. He did a little spa [the Therme Vals] up in the mountains in Graubünden, Switzerland. A lot of architects have made this sort of pilgrimage there, and it’s well worth it. It feels like it’s hewn out of the rock of the mountain, and it’s these very quiet boxes. Each one has a different experiential interaction with the pools.”
On a Favorite Local Building
“The Clyfford Still Museum is amazing—just the tactile quality of it, the light inside, and the rigor of architect Brad Cloepfil’s process. He doesn’t turn over the same ground with every project; he explores new territory every time. There are certain little phrases that you’ll see from project to project, but Brad really digs in and experiments with things you wouldn’t expect that an architect would be thinking about to generate a building.”