Denver Art Museum Breaks Ground
The Denver Art Museum (DAM) broke ground yesterday on a comprehensive renovation of its iconic North Building, the only completed structure in North America designed by renowned Italian architect Gio Ponti. Machado Silvetti and Denver-based Fentress Architects are the design team behind the $150 million project, slated for completion timed to the building’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The design will unify the entirety of the DAM’s campus, streamline visitor access to the museum’s collections, exhibitions and serve as a beacon for the surrounding neighborhood.
The North Building renovation will realize elements of Ponti’s original design concept, expand gallery spaces to better engage audiences with the museum’s growing collection and increase the DAM’s capacity to serve school and youth groups through its renowned educational program, as well as improve campus connectivity and building systems.
Speakers at the ceremonial moment included Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Board Chairman and lead donors Lanny and Sharon Martin, as well as former Board Chairman Tom Congdon and Jorge Silvetti. A project blessing was conducted by John Emhoolah of the Kiowa and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and special performances were presented by the Alpine Brass and Drone Dispatch in collaboration with artists Jennifer Ghormley and Pam Fortner.
The DAM has raised $110 million toward the capital campaign, and in November 2017 voters approved $35.5 million in funding for the project through the City’s general obligation bond initiative to help fund key infrastructure and safety upgrades for the nearly 50-year-old building. In recognition of a $25 million lead gift from Board Chairman Lanny Martin and his wife, Sharon, the North Building will be renamed the Martin Building upon reopening to the public. Additional lead project donors included Anna and John J. Sie, who have pledged $12 million for the realization of the welcome center, as well as the Avenir Foundation, Fred and Jana Bartlit, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, the Morgridge Family Foundation and Amanda J. Precourt.
“I’m delighted to report that we are nearing our $150 million capital goal, and look forward to turning our focus toward securing endowment funds for future maintenance and operational needs of a renovated building. In addition, we are building toward strategic growth of the museum’s collection through gifts of art,” said Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “This renovation will allow us to finally realize Gio Ponti’s original vision for the building, while also ensuring that our facilities are able to provide the widest public access and world-class visitor experiences the museum has become known for.”
With an accessible point of entry off of 13th Avenue, the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center will visually connect the campus and contribute to the unique landscape of the Golden Triangle Creative District. Inspired by shapes and volumes originally designed by Ponti, the elliptical two-story facility will encompass 50,000 square feet and serve as a public hub, offering visitor orientation, improved admissions and amenities including a restaurant and quick-service café. The Welcome Center also will house a new conservation lab and underground art storage. Additionally, the reopened building’s first floor will feature an expanded Center for Learning and Engagement, which will bring educational programming to the heart of the DAM’s campus, as well as the Bonfils-Stanton Gallery for special exhibitions focusing on works from the museum’s permanent collections.
Realizing Gio Ponti’s original vision for a completed seventh floor with sweeping views of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains, the northernmost half of the building’s top floor will be enclosed, creating the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Galleries of Western American Art. Additionally, the Amanda J. Precourt Design Galleries will provide the DAM with its first appropriately scaled, dedicate space on the second floor to showcase its extensive design collection in a display that traces the evolution of modern and contemporary design.