In 2021, when the pandemic will hopefully be behind us, one building on the two-block site that forms the Denver Art Museum turns 50. Its age is significant but its architect even more so: Gio Ponti. Furthermore, it’s the late Italian designer’s only completed building in North America, a commission he received in 1965 when he was 74.
Breaking with traditional museum archetypes, Ponti conceived the seven-story North Building, as it was then called, as a castlelike structure, with eclectic window openings, a mountain-view rooftop terrace, and 24 facades, the latter clad in more than a million reflective glass tiles.
The structure’s upcoming anniversary has kicked off a campus-wide transformation overseen by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects. The DAM’s titanium Hamilton Building by Studio Libeskind stays as is. But access to it has been streamlined courtesy of the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, which adjoins Ponti’s structure, now called the Martin Building. When the DAM reopens to the public later this year, phase one of the Martin redo will reveal new exhibition and education spaces designed by OMA and Esrawe + Cadena, as well as the apt exhibition, “Gio Ponti: Designer of a Thousand Talents.”