In a celebration of the annual Doors Open Denver, we want to share a few architectural gems that you may miss on an average Denver Art Museum visit. While the buildings alone—designed by star architects Gio Ponti and Daniel Libeskind—could keep the average architecture enthusiast satisfied for hours, we’ve revealed a few secret spots not to miss. Find more details on our calendar about what areas of the museum Doors Open Denver visitors can access.
1. What did that sink just say to me?
Level One Restrooms, North Building
Visit the restrooms on the first floor of the North Building. Sure, we have bathrooms on every floor, but these restrooms house a special artwork aptly named Singing Sings, by Jim Green. Wash your hands and hear a lovely serenade of Row, Row, Row Your Boat seemingly coming from the drain pipe. To create authentic plumbing acoustics, the speaker is mounted in a non-functional plumbing pipe connected to the drainpipe. Sounds are activated when you stick your hands under the faucet. Don’t forget to try a few sinks at the same time.
2. What did one red tile say to the other?
Stairwell, North Building
The stairs in the seven-story North Building may seem daunting, but if you can explore a few floors by foot, you’ll be rewarded. In the stairwells you’ll find replicas of the tiles on the outside of the building in yellow, white and, in one case, red. Enter the staircase on level one, walk up about 12 steps and you’ll encounter a wall of white tiles with one red tile stuck on the right side. No one can explain who put it there or why!
3. Rocky Mountain Majesty
Level Six, North Building
We’re shaking off the construction dust in the level six galleries as I type. It is future home to our textile art collection. The North tower on this level was being used as a collection storage area and exhibition staging space. Through a generous grant from the Avenir Foundation and subsequent donations from area supporters and foundations, the entire North tower area is being remodeled. The new space will house an extensive, interactive Thread Studio space, exhibition space for the textile art collection, a preVIEW area where conservation work can take place in visitors' view, and storage for the entire textile collection. One of the new elements that took my breath away was the stunning windows (and mountain vistas) revealed. Sweeping views of the city and mountains will greet you as you walk into the Thread Studio. The angular windows also showcase Ponti’s preference for geometric shapes.
4. What are those blinking tiles?
Atrium, Hamilton Building
Look up and take in the digital artwork of Tatsuo Miyajima, titled ENGI. Commissioned by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, the artwork is actually a piece of public art that calls the museum home. What many people may not realize is that each of the 80 mirrored disks are connected to a community member. Central to the artist’s vision for ENGI was the direct involvement of the people of Denver, making it a truly public piece of art. At a workshop on August 9, 2006, 80 members of the community each set the rate of change for the numbers on a device. Miyajima instructed the participants to set the devices as a metaphor for “each individual’s life force, “each individual’s history” and “each individual’s time.” The LEDs, with their different colors (blue or white) and speeds, display a microcosm of the city of Denver and its residents.
5. Where to catch a few rays
Level Three, Hamilton Building
Few people realize that we have a sculpture deck in the Hamilton Building. Located off of the level three modern and contemporary art galleries, the deck houses a metal sculpture titled (ironically) Untitled by Donald Judd and spectacular views of the surrounding area. Weather permitting, this deck is a nice breather from the galleries and offers a bit of sun.
Want to learn more about the museum’s architecture? Take our docent-led Architecture Tour, offered daily at 10:15 am. Free with general museum admission. Or listen to museum staff and experts talk about the North Building and the Hamilton Building online.
Image credit: Denver Art Museum photo by Thomas Schiff.