Denver, the Mile High City, is actually a city of the plains. That was the crucial realization that led architect Brad Cloepfil, AIA, of Allied Works Architecture in Portland, Ore., to design the new Clyfford Still Museum as a solitary object sheltered behind a screen of sycamore trees, like a homestead found in the windswept flatness that stretches out to the east, north, and south of the site. This 28,500-square-foot monument is now the permanent home for Still’s quintessential brand of American Abstract Expressionist works.
A simple form composed of poured-in-place architectural concrete whose surface the architect manipulated to catch the strong light that shines over 300 days a year in Denver, the structure lifts a skylit floor of galleries over a base of offices, open storage, educational exhibitions, research and conservation labs, and a small lobby. The second-level galleries are rectangular, and many open up to one another with double-height slot corridors, so that you always see the paintings within a landscape of concrete walls and evenly lit spaces. The light is filtered through a cellular concrete ceiling screen whose geometry is biased toward the north. Incandescent fixtures supplement this natural wash in the galleries.
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