Denver recently ranked sixth on a Current Results list of the major cities that receive the most sunshine. With all of that light, it’s no wonder that Allied Works Architecture chose to capitalize on the abundant resource in its design of the Clyfford Still Museum. Working with Arup, the team created an appropriate daylighting strategy.

The museum, which houses a collection of approximately 2,400 artworks by American abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still, sits just west of the Denver Art Museum’s Daniel Libeskind–designed addition. In contrast to its neighbor’s bold, steel-plated façade, the Clyfford Still Museum is a diminutive, two-story concrete structure whose surrounds are landscaped with sycamores that will block out street views as they grow.

When Still died in 1980, his will stipulated that his oeuvre would go to the city, who should build a facility to store and display the works, so long as his were the only ones present. Although the bulk of this collection resides in storage, the pieces that rotate through the second-floor galleries receive ample, diffuse light from a custom-formed, cast-in-place, perforated concrete ceiling with skylights and integrated electric lighting. Arup conducted several lighting studies with scale models and mock-ups to see that energy and conservation goals could be met with its daylighting strategy. Ambient light levels vary subtly and seasonally, which encourages repeat visits, a priority for the museum. The regularity of the ceiling’s perforation patterns offers a texture complementary to the museum’s variable-width-board-formed concrete walls, with the result being a lively space that manages to defer to Still’s complex pieces.

Project: The Clyfford Still Museum, Denver •  Entrant: Arup, New York •  Client: Clyfford Still Museum, Denver •  Owner’s Representative: Romani Group, Denver •  Architect: Allied Works Architecture, Portland, Ore. •  Lighting Designer: Arup, New York  Team Members: Brian Stacy, Chris Rush, and Rohit Manudhane •  Landscape Architect: Reed Hilderbrand, Watertown, Mass. •  Photographer: Jeremy Bittermann, Portland, Ore. •  Project Size: 26,500 square feet •  Project Cost: $15.5 million •  Lighting Cost: Not provided •  Watts per Square Foot: 0.67W with exclusions •  Code Compliance: 30% below ASHRAE 90.1-2004 •  Manufacturers: Axis Lighting; B-K Lighting; iGuzzini; Kirlin Lighting; Litelab; We-ef Jury Comments: A complex use of daylight to respond to the rich architectural material palette. • A nuanced daylighting approach that provides balanced illumination so that visitors are able to concentrate on the artwork without distraction.