Fentress Architects Wins 25-Year Award for 1999 Broadway

Denver, Colorado (October 18, 2014) – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Western Mountain Region has honored Fentress Architects with its 25-year Award for the 1999 Broadway high-rise. In order to qualify for this award, a structure must be located in the Western Mountain Region and must have been built at least 25 years ago and be in active use today. The award recognizes a built structure that has significantly influenced design and lifestyle in the Western Mountain Region. Winners will be acknowledged during the AIA Western Mountain Region Design Awards Gala on Saturday October 18.

The oil boom of the 1980s and the growth that followed catapulted Denver into one of the most sought after metropolitan centers in the western United States. Belying its image as a cowtown, Denver’s downtown was suddenly transformed by cranes and skyscrapers at an astonishing rate. It was during this time that 1999 Broadway was conceived, designed, and built.

The design challenge was that the site would be shared by the historic Holy Ghost Catholic Church, constructed between 1924 and 1943.  Preserving this heavily-used church, while developing a 43-story commercial office building on the remaining property would require a sensitive and pragmatic solution. The architect convinced the developer not to remove the church from the site but to lease it back to the church for $1 per year for 500 years with an option to renew for another 500 years.

The design concept for the tower focused on creating two distinct facades expressed in different material palettes to complement the historic landmark. Using the church’s cross-shaped form as the central focal point and the triangular site boundaries as edges, the tower’s shape was generated from an arithmetic spiral. The end result is architecture with a dual nature, each side expressing its own aesthetic identity.  Facing the church, a concave wall cradles the house of worship and surrounds it with its glass facade. 

When facing the church, there is a particular place where one can see both the reflection of the church and a view of the mountains. It is a design feature not seen often, and most certainly is a tribute to Fentress Architects’ attention to subtle, meaningful, yet remarkable details.
Father Christopher of the Holy Ghost Catholic Church

1999 Broadway by Fentress Architects

To maintain unobstructed views of the church, 50-foot columns lift the tower skyward from the ground level, preserving visual independence for both the church and the office lobby. In the process, the space between church and tower creates a distinct pedestrian plaza used by the citizens of Denver. Overall, the tower is deferential to the church, complementing rather than overwhelming the sacred building.

I have always loved the way the tower encircles the church without overpowering it, each building making the other one stronger. The juxtaposition of the two makes a strong and convincing argument that we don’t have to discard the old in order to embrace the future.
Mary Morissette, FAIA

The building was finished and won an AIA Western Mountain Region Honor Award in 1985. Architecture that bonds a city’s historic landmarks with the buildings of today requires a sensitive and creative approach. 

The contribution that 1999 Broadway has made to the central business district, and the building’s timeless design, are as significant to Denver’s civic character and skyline today as they were 29 years ago.