MCA DENVER is a museum without a front door, an open invitation to our growing participatory culture. The 27,000 square foot facility contains intimate spaces for direct exchanges between artists and visitors: five exhibition spaces including galleries for paper works, large works, new media, photography, as well as a project gallery for an artist-in-residence program. The building also features three education spaces, a bookshop, a garden and café. An exterior wall clad in a gray glass acts as an outer skin to three independently engineered separate buildings. The interior features three separate levels. MCA DENVER opens to light that is shot through various junctures, a signature feature of Adjaye Associates designs. Innovative it its use of material and in harmony with the elements of Colorado, MCA DENVER is the first non-collecting gold LEED certified museum in the US.
The building of MCA DENVER was under my tenure as Executive Director and Chief Curator. Many documents on this website speak to that experience. I began working at the organization in late 2000 when it was still in an old fish market in Sakura Square, a 70s HUD housing project. Then operating under the name MoCAD the fledgling museum had gone through five directors in three years. The staff was bare bones—four PT employees—and the budget had evaporated to the point where the question of viability was daily. The board was split on limiting growth, becoming an all volunteer run organization, or dissolving. I was hired under these tenuous conditions. My vision was to build a permanent museum of architectural relevance for contemporary art in Colorado. Over the next seven years that vision unfolded. When we arrived at the point of considering an architect for a new building I created a public process for the selection of an architect that engaged thousands Denver residents, PS 1 students, University of Colorado Architecture graduate students. The process was two fold. An Architect Selection Committee would interview, visit sites, and make the final determination. But the public would cast their votes through a series of forums held over six consecutive Monday nights. That series, Architects on View, featured presentations from finalists Predock Frane, Richard Gluckman, Rick Joy, Enrique Norten, Craig Dykers|Snohetta, and David Adjaye|Adjaye Associates. David Adjaye was not only a favorite of the PS 1 students but also of many on the Board of Trustees and architectural community who weighed in heavily on our feedback website. The Committee’s choice unanimously mirrored the public’s will. David Adjaye was engaged.
My role in the architectural design process was to serve on behalf of the board of trustees as the client, a remarkable privilege. Along with the challenge of bringing to fruition a noteworthy and lasting building my duties were numerous. I oversaw growth in staff to nearly thirty employees, operating budgets from under 100,000 to 2 million, a modest 20 million capital campaign, curating exhibitions at three sites—Sakura Square, the Temporary Contemporary, MCA DENVER—rebranding and marketing, Trustee development, international positioning, development of education programs, and day to day operations.
ABOVE: Finalists were invited to share napkin drawings related to their interest in the museum. Richard Gluckman, Gluckman Mayner Architects (now Gluckman Tang); Rick Joy, Rick Joy Architects; Craig Dykers, Snohetta; David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates