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Best Overall Project in Colorado: Clyfford Still Museum Shines as a Concrete Jewel

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Courtesy of Saunders Construction
The cantilevered, two-story concrete building features nine light-filled galleries on its second level.
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2012 Best Overall Project in Colorado

2012 Best Project

Cultural/Worship Category

Clyfford Still Museum

Denver

The Clyfford Still Museum, located in downtown Denver's Civic Center Cultural Complex, resonates with visitors because of its simplicity. The "concrete jewel box," as the project team dubbed it, is as straightforward and pure as the artist's work it displays.

The $15.5-million museum was conceived as a place for presenting, preserving and studying the work of a single abstract expressionist artist, whose final will, upon his death in 1980, stipulated that no other artist's work can be displayed there.

The facility is also singular because, as specified by the artist, the museum has no restaurant and no gift shop. Museum director Dean Sobel calls it "totally content focused," with 28,500 sq ft of viewing galleries, educational and interactive spaces, archival storage and a conservation laboratory.

All galleries are located on the second floor, away from the support spaces, giving viewers a quiet, contemplative area to take in a rotating selection of the museum's collection of 2,400 Clyfford Still works, or about 94% of his life's output.

Aesthetically, the building appears equally uncomplicated. Compared with its flashier neighbors—the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Central Library—the Still Museum is a study in contrasts, with its low-slung geometry and muted gray palette. However, the simple elegance of the project belies the complex and challenging process it took to create a visibly seamless, highly textured building made almost entirely of hand-poured concrete.

The building was intended to appear seamless, integrated with its surroundings and low to the earth. It was to be both roughly and regularly textured, inviting light to play across its concrete surfaces and inside its galleries, and through that choreography of light and texture offer the best possible venue to display hundreds of America's most dramatic works of art.

Key Players

Owner: Clyfford Still Museum, Denver

Architect: Allied Works Architecture, Portland, Ore.

General Contractor: Saunders Construction, Centennial, Colo.

Structural Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers, Portland, Ore.

Civil Engineer: V3 Cos. of Colorado Ltd, Denver

MEP: ARUP, Los Angeles

Entry submitted by Saunders Construction

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