Though Gio Ponti was actively designing in the United States as early as 1928 and throughout the 1950s, the late Italian architect only ever completed one building in North America: the Denver Art Museum, a commission he accepted in 1965 at age 74. The seven-story castle-like tower eschewed traditional museum archetypes at the time, sporting such design flourishes as unexpected window openings, a rooftop terrace with Rocky Mountain views, and 24 facades clad in more than one million reflective glass tiles. To celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary, Machado Silvetti and local firm Fentress Architects embarked on a campus-wide transformation that entailed creating a new welcome center, outdoor areas, reconfigured galleries, and additional space for events and dining.
Of all the interventions, most notable is the Sie Welcome Center that adjoins the tower, newly renamed the Martin Building,d and references an elliptical auditorium that Ponti originally intended for the museum. “To create the new Sie Welcome Center in Denver’s architecturally rich Golden Triangle Creative District, it was critical for us to design a structure that was in dialogue with the vibrant visual language of Ponti and Studio Libeskind’s designs, while also providing connection to the museum,” says Jorge Silvetti, principal at Machado Silvetti. “With its elliptical shape approachable from all angles, and transparent glass facade, the center is an inviting and glowing beacon to greet all visitors.” It streamlines access to Studio Libeskind’s titanium Hamilton Building, which otherwise remains untouched.