In October 2006, the Denver Art Museum completed its first major expansion in over 30 years. The 146,000ft² addition nearly doubled the size of the museum. The expansion, taking the form of a separate building joining the existing museum via a 100ft enclosed walkway, has been called the Frederic C Hamilton Building after entrepreneur Frederic C Hamilton, who has served as Chairman of the Denver Art Museum since 1994.
Construction of the museum expansion began in July 2003, with a celebratory weekend-long event for the general public to learn more about the future plans of Denver Art Museum taking place in August 2003. It took over a year to erect the steel structure of the building, and installing the titanium exterior began in mid 2004.
Public money paid for the actual construction of the building, including architect and contractor fees and materials. The budget for this was $67m, though the estimated cost was $46m. The public bond was projected to be $62.5m. The museum also raised an addition $23m through donations from individuals and foundations.
Interest from an endowment campaign, worth $60m, paid the museum’s increased operation costs after 2006. This money was raised by museum trustees to supplement the existing endowment of $32m. Frederic C Hamilton made a personal contribution of $20m to this fund.
Berlin-based Architectural Studio Daniel Libeskind was appointed the lead architect in July 2000, following a competition with 40 other architects. Soon after, in August 2000, Studio Libeskind formed a joint venture with Denver-based Davis Partnership Architects to jointly design the Hamilton Building and surrounding complex.
In July 2001, MA Mortenson Company was selected as the contractor to build the expansion. Arup was the structural engineer.
The original Denver Art Museum was designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti in 1971. Known as the Ponti Building, the 28-sided, two-towered, 210,000ft² structure is connected to the Hamilton Building by an enclosed 100ft bridge. The Hamilton Building acts as the main entrance to the entire museum complex, and accommodates shops, a cafe, theatre and a rooftop sculpture garden with views over the Rocky Mountain range. Modern and contemporary art, as well as the collection of architecture and design and Oceanic art are also housed in the building.
The Hamilton Building’s architecture consists of a series of wall planes. The new wing’s design is created out of a titanium skin cladding and sculptural form, which naturally meshes with the surrounding civic buildings. The architect described the new wing as, “a composition of two lines of a nexus coming together that tie downtown Denver and the Civic Center Park with the Golden Triangle neighbourhood to the south.”
The design consists of angular forms culminating in a cantilever that reaches across 13th Avenue towards the existing Ponti Building. There is a soaring lobby space with a glass ceiling located in the heart of the structure, and a glass sky bridge connection to the existing museum. The bridge spills into a glass pavilion on the top floor of the Morgan Wing, which houses the museum’s restaurant, and enter the existing grey glass tile Ponti Building through a wall at second-story level. The innovative structure was realised through the dramatic use of metal (9,000 titanium panels), glass and stone (Colorado granite).
The entire museum complex totals more than 350,000ft². A co-development project, consisting of a five-storey, 1,000-space car park and 270,000ft² of retail and residential space, was also designed by Daniel Libeskind. The facilities also include a 300-seat auditorium, special exhibition galleries, art storage and conservation, permanent galleries, kitchen, cafe, atrium, and crating and loading spaces.
Construction of the Hamilton Building required 2,740t of steel, 230,000ft² of titanium and 7,400yd³ of concrete. Almost all the steel used was fabricated in the US.
The three largest steel beams weigh 550lb per linear foot and are 60ft long – so long that the only company able to fabricate the steel is based in Belgium. Mortensen used a 3D state-of-the-art computer programme to map the location of every steel rod before it was installed. The company also applied a fireproofing material to all of the steel.
To make the Hamilton Building secure and stable, 116 vertical columns of steel and concrete extend from the building’s foundation in to the bedrock. The Hamilton Building initially saw leakage from the roof due to its angular shape. This was, however, rectified by the general contractors.
The new extension to the Denver Art Museum was the first Daniel Libeskind-designed structure to reach completion.
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