Denver's Best Architecture
Denver doesn’t necessarily have a distinct style of architecture that defines it. Rather, it ranges from late-era Victorian homes to super-sleek modern buildings. If you take yourself on an architecture treasure hunt in the city, you can tick all of the following off your list: a castle, an Italian-inspired clock tower, a massive blue bear, and a building that looks like a cash register. For the bonus round, head west into the foothills, and you can spot a home that looks like it’s straight from the Jetson’s.
Otherwise, here’s where you’ll find seven of Denver’s most prized pieces of architecture.
The Denver Art Museum
The Rocky Mountains’ famed peaks were the muse for the bold, jagged look of the Denver Art Museums’ Frederic C. Hamilton Building. The building was designed by Daniel Libeskind and Davis Partnership Architects, and it made its bold debut in 2006. Altogether, it was constructed with 9,000 titanium panels. The titanium bounces around lights, which, depending on how well the weather cooperates, causes it to look rose-colored in the morning and golden at sunset. The Frederic C. Hamilton Building is Libeskind’s first completed building here in the United States, though he was also chosen as a master plan architect for New York City’s World Trade Center site.
Colorado State Capitol
The spirit of Colorado’s gold rush is enshrined at the state Capitol, which took nearly 20 years to complete and finally debuted in 1908. More than 200 ounces of 24 karat gold leaf covers the building's dome, which sparkles 272 feet into the sky. Colorado’s state capitol was modeled after the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., according to Visit Denver. While the gold dome is impressive, the more impressive material can be seen inside the capitol building. The entire world’s supply of Colorado Rose Onyx was used as wainscoting. No more of this super rare stone has since been discovered.
Visitors can book a room in this stunning castle, which serves as a bed and breakfast and sits at the corner of 16th and Race Streets in Denver’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood. It was built in 1869 amid a Denver construction boom. The castle’s architect was WiIlliam Lane, who also was the architect behind the famed Unsinkable Molly Brown House and was known for his eclectic designs. He designed and built more than 300 homes in Denver (about 100 remain today), but was financially ruined by the “Silver Panic of 1893,” and despite making such a name for himself, the esteemed architect died a “penniless pauper” in 1897, according to historical accounts from the bed and breakfast. The architectural style of the castle is Richardsonian Romanesque, with hints of Queen Anne. Lava stone quarried from Castle Rock forms the sturdy exterior of the castle. Inside, guests will find delicate details like hand-carved fireplaces and a “peacock” stained glass window from the Impressionist movement.
The Clock Tower
Denver was once home to the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. The historic Daniels and Fisher Department Store stretched 393 feet into the sky and defined historic Denver’s skyline. From the 20th floor, visitors could see unobstructed views 200 miles in any direction.Designed by architect F.G. Sterner, the building is of the Italian Renaissance style and was made out of brick, stone and terracotta. Despite efforts from historic preservationists, the flagship store was demolished in the early 1970s. However, its grand clock tower was spared, and, today is host to everything from wedding proposals to burlesque shows. It remains a defining piece of Denver’s skyline, and lights up at night. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Denver landmark.
The Colorado Convention Center
The Colorado Convention Center, which was completed in 2004, is significant because it redefined Denver’s skyline. The convention center’s unique feature is a 660-foot-long roofline. A massive building, it covers nine city blocks in the heart of downtown and incorporates a light rail station stop. Of course what makes the convention center one of Denver’s most beloved buildings is the massive blue bear peering in from the outside. At 40 feet tall, the big blue bear is formally named “I See What You Mean” and was designed by artists Lawrence Argent. It was actually an accident that the public art turned out blue. Argent originally planned on a more subdued color, but a printout of his design came back blue by mistake, and it inspired him to go with the brighter color.
The Cash Register Building
Downtown Denver’s “Cash Register” building has made its way onto plenty of postcards and is recognizable because of its red facade and curled roof that has it resembling a cash register. The 52-story building also looks like the lowercase letter “a” in the horizon. Registering in at 698 feet, it’s the city of Denver’s third tallest building. It gets beat out by the Republic Plaza and the Century Link building, but looks taller because it’s on a hill, according to the American Institute of Architect’s Colorado chapter. Inside, the building has a spacious atrium with five LED panels, each measuring 86 feet tall and 2 feet wide, that play an ever-changing display of images and content. The office building is home to several businesses, including energy companies, law offices, and restaurant app Open Table. This iconic building was designed by architect Philip Johnson, who also designed his Connecticut residence the Glass House and New York’s Seagram Building.
Deaton Sculpture House
Just outside of Denver and along Interstate-70 in Colorado’s foothills is a house that looks a lot like something you’d see on the “Jetsons.” The private, saucer-shaped house was built on top of Genesee Mountain in 1963 by architect Charles Deaton, and over the years, it’s garnered lots of nicknames. Among them? “The Sleeper House” because it starred in Woody Allen’s 1973 sci-fi movie “Sleeper.”